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Wildfires, Rainy Season Conditions Could Cause Significant Property Damage

Oakland, Ca. - When it comes to winter flooding, there are two things that many homeowners should know about their risk. First, the dangers of severe weather and related flooding do not end when colder weather begins. Floods are a year-round hazard, and they can be especially dangerous in western states - including Arizona, California, and Nevada - due to recent wildfires and the upcoming rainy season.

Second, most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage, which resulted in an average claim of nearly $27,000 in 2009.  In most cases, flood insurance made available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the only protection against the financial costs of flooding. 

"Virtually every home and business owner faces some risk of flooding, which can stem from events as commonplace as broken sewer lines, slow moving rainstorms, or even a new real estate development that alters drainage patterns around a property," said Nancy Ward, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Region IX Administrator.  "Everyone should have a flood preparedness checklist, and for many people, having flood insurance can be as important as having an emergency supply kit and knowing where to go if they need to evacuate."

Specific dangers facing western states during the 2010-2011 winter season include:

RISKS FROM HEAVY RAINFALL:  Floods are a particularly common and costly hazard in Arizona, and can be caused by heavy rain and the remnants of tropical storms.  Even mountainous areas are at risk, as higher grounds tend to funnel water down into canyons. In California, heavy rains through the winter and early spring are responsible for most of the state's yearly rainfall, causing cresting rivers, back-up storm drains and saturated ground, all of which can lead to devastating floods.  Nevada also has a significant winter rainy season due to intense storms that originate over the Pacific Ocean.

INCREASED RISKS FROM WILDFIRES: Large scale wildfires during the summer and fall months have dramatically altered ground conditions in communities in Arizona, California, and Nevada.  The charred ground that these fires produce lacks vegetation that typically helps absorb and slow excess water, increasing the likelihood of flooding and mudflows and causing significant damage to nearby properties.

In 2010 alone, more than 142,000 acres in Arizona were severely damaged by wildfires, including the Schultz Wildfire in June, which burned more than 15,000 acres. Just one month later heavy rains brought severe flooding to the Flagstaff area. In 2009 the "Station" fire in Los Angeles County, Ca burned more than 160,000 acres. Residents in Nevada should also be aware of the flooding dangers associated with wildfires, which damaged more than 28,000 acres in 2010.

Residents in every state and nationwide should know that flood insurance policies typically take 30 days to become effective, so the time to get protected is now.

FEMA offers interactive tools to help homeowners understand their risk.  For more information visit www.floodsmart.gov

Individuals should visit  FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419 to learn how to prepare for floods, what to do if their area has been flooded, how to purchase a National Flood Insurance policy, and the benefits of protecting their home and property against flooding.

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