California Warns Homeowners of Flood Threat

October 12, 2009

With the first big rain storm of the year bearing down on Northern California, the California Department of Insurance has put out an advisory to the public to check their homeowners insurance and to look into whether they need flood insurance.

The risk of flooding and flood damage are considered particuarly high because of all the fires that have occurred in the state. Flooding is more likely after fire because vegetation soaks up rain, and when vegetation is destroyed mud flows may happen.

California had 7,500 fires this year, and hundreds of thousands of acres burned.

“After the smoke has cleared from any wildfire, there is still the potential for catastrophic damage and losses to homes and neighborhoods when winter storms come,” Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said in the advisory, which was released on Friday. “Most homeowners policies do not provide coverage for damage that is flood-related. Typically, it takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to kick in. Therefore, it is essential that homeowners evaluate their individual needs for flood and other supplemental insurance policies as soon as possible. I encourage all Californians to document their possessions before any type of disaster strikes. Suffering the loss of a home or belongings is an extremely stressful experience. Relying solely on your memory to inventory your assets is a mistake that can be easily avoided.”

Last week the U.S. Geological Survey warned that there is an 80 percent chance of debris-flows if a storm hits in some of the areas burned by the station fire. Flows could contain up to 100,000 cubic yards of debris, the agency said. For additional details on the assessment, visit http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1227/.

In California, most standard homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover mudslides. Residents are urged to contact their insurers to determine exactly what their current policies will cover and if the purchase of flood insurance is a worthwhile option for them. A flood insurance policy typically takes effect 30 days after it is purchased.

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