FEMA Urges Bay Area Homeowners to Brace for Flooding

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say most of the damage caused by the last El Niño was incurred in the spring.

The latest storm is proof that El Niño is far from over. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is once again warning Bay Area homeowners to brace for flooding.

FEMA officials say they're worried El Niño conditions could mean flooding in places residents would not normally expect it.

And, even though a record number of California's are signing up for flood insurance policies, it's a drop in the bucket compared to how many might need it.

Pacheco resident Rene Sagaben says he's been through El Niño before and is taking precautions. On Wednesday, the tree trimmers paid him a visit. He's getting a quote to trim four large trees on his property.

But, with an El Niño weather pattern expected to continue to drench the area, Sagaben is also considering flood insurance for the first time, despite being in a low-risk flood area.

"Our area has been lucky so far," Sagaben said. "But, so far so good, we haven't really gotten flooded yet."

FEMA Deputy Regional Manager Ahsha Tribble said her agency wants to make sure all Bay Area residents understand the risks. "It's just whether it's low, medium or high risk," she said.

FEMA officials say insurers have written more than 55,000 flood insurance policies since August, translating into a 25 percent increase, but it's not enough.

"It's a drop in the bucket it compared to the large population," Tribble said.

Many don't realize flood damage is not covered under the average homeowner's insurance policy.

"Flash flooding can happen very quickly," Tribble said. "It takes a very, very small amount of water to give you very expensive damage in your home."

Using the last El Niño season of 1998 as a guide, FEMA officials say it was not until spring that the most damage was inflicted ... damage that triggered a federal disaster declaration.

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