According to the National Weather Service (NWS), El Niño is a disruption of the usual ocean-atmosphere system in the Tropical Pacific. Changes there have important consequences for weather and climate around the globe. In the United States, El Niño often changes typical weather patterns and could bring drier conditions to some areas and intense rainfall amounts to others.
The NWS forecasts that El Niño will bring heavy rainfall this winter, especially to the southern tier of the United States. The intensity of rainfall in the coming months could lead to devastating oods, especially in areas affected by prolonged drought or areas scarred by past wildfires.
Risks from Drought and Fire
Normal vegetation absorbs rainfall, reducing runoff on sloping ground. However, drought hardens the earth, slowing absorption. Wild fires leave the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water, creating conditions ripe for flash flooding and mud flow. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wild fire.
Preparing for a Flood Now is the time to prepare for potential ood conditions during the coming months. Here are things to do before the threat of flood increases:
- Flooding can happen anywhere, but certain areas are especially prone to serious flooding. Understand your personal risk.
- Review your current insurance policy, become familiar with what is covered, and ensure that limits are adequate for your building and personal belongings. Homeowners insurance does not cover ood damage.
- Purchase a flood insurance policy if you don’t already have one. There typically is a 30-day waiting period before your policy takes effect. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
- Make an emergency kit, plan evacuation routes, and keep important papers in a safe, waterproof place.
- Itemize and take pictures of possessions.
Visit ElNino.NOAA.gov to learn more about El Niño. To learn more about your personal flood risk and how to prepare for floods, visit FloodSmart.gov. For more information regarding a policy, please call your insurance agent. You also can visit FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419 to find a local agent.