Recent Rains Put Californians at Risk for Floods, Mudflows; Wetter Winter for So. Cal a Possibility

October 29, 2004

Recent severe storms have brought an early start to California’s rainy season and have put areas already ravaged by past year’s wildfires at particular risk. Residents living near wildfire burn areas are reportedly especially vulnerable to flooding and to mudflows that occur when fire-scorched earth saturates, liquefies and gushes down hills.

“California’s winter rains can be sudden and surprisingly intense,” said Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response Michael Brown. “Residents should know how to prepare for these storms, and should be aware that their homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood and mudflow damage.”

Flood insurance policies offered through the National Flood Insurance Program do cover damage from both flooding and mudflows. However, it is important to act now since there is a 30-day waiting period with new flood insurance policies.

No California county is reportedly immune from the risk of flooding. In the past 10 years alone, there have been three large scale, widespread, Federally-declared flood disasters in California. And the risk could be higher than usual this year for the southern part of the state. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that an El Nino may bring heavy rains to Southern California this winter.

To help teach Californians how to protect their homes and property against flooding, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is sponsoring the FloodSmart campaign.

Residents can learn more about their flood risk and the protection offered by flood insurance at, or can call 1-800-427-2419 to locate a nearby insurance agent.

Under the National Flood Insurance Program, federally backed flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters and business owners in communities that adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood losses by regulating new construction in high flood-risk areas.

Currently, more than 4.4 million flood insurance policies are in approximately 20,000 participating communities nationwide, representing nearly $637 billion worth of coverage. The National Flood Insurance Program is self-supporting; claims and operating expenses are paid from policyholder premiums, not taxpayer dollars.

On March 1, 2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.

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