El Niño Is Coming, Is Your Property Ready?

Industry Insights

With fall fast approaching, the nation is readying itself for what forecasters are calling the strongest El Nino since 1997-98, when devastating storms killed 17 people and caused $550 million in property damage. Once again, “the young boy” is likely to wreak the most havoc to drought-ravaged California, where the parched soil and long unused drainage systems will likely be taxed beyond capacity, inevitably leading to floods and landslides.

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While that notion can strike fear into any homeowner, it raises some unique concerns for the property management industry, which is responsible for the maintenance of many thousands of dwelling units and the safety of the people who inhabit them.

As with most things is life, the idiom goes, forewarned is forearmed. Because forecasters can see an El Nino coming months out, there’s plenty of time to prepare. So property managers who have holdings in California or the areas forecasted to experience more rain than usual should take time now to get ready for what’s ahead.

But, first, let’s look more closely into what, exactly, is El Nino? We enter an El Nino season when the water in the tropical Pacific Ocean is unusually warm; that phenomenon, which occurs every two to seven years, generates a wetter-than-normal rainy season in much of the country, and drier and milder fall/winter in others. This year, according to the Climate Prediction Center, there is a greater than 90% chance that a very strong El Nino (far rarer than an average El Nino) will develop through the fall, and an 85% chance it will last through the winter.

Its effects will likely play out in varying ways across the United States, according to reports published on The Weather Channel:

Wetter: Southern U.S. from California to the Carolinas then up parts of the East Coast

Drier: Parts of the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, Northwest and Northern Rockies

Cooler: Desert Southwest, Southern Plains, northern Gulf Coast

Warmer: Northern tier of states from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains, Great Lakes, and Northeast.

The biggest problems in terms of property damage, of course, are bound to be areas that will get hit with an overabundance of rain. The south and parts of the east coast will see more than usual flooding; Southern California and the desert Southwest (Arizona and Nevada, primarily), in particular, will experience days-long storms. In 1997-98, for example, California experienced 200% above their normal rainfall.

The impact on buildings and property will likely run the gamut: damaged or collapsed roofs, flooded buildings, damage to/loss of trees and landscaping, power outages, foundation and structural damage from mud or landslides, and pavement washouts.

Wise property managers will take the time now to tour their properties and make sure roofs are in good condition, drains and building gutters are cleared of debris, secure, and working, grounds are free of items that could become projectiles in violent winds or drainage cloggers in floods, and generators are functioning. Another good practice would be to let residents know that you’re taking precautions against any challenges that might arise from El Nino, and ask them to do whatever they can to stay safe, too; they’ll feel more secure and confident with your service to them.

If history is any indication, this year’s forecasted “very strong” El Nino is likely to bring challenging weather – in the form of an overabundance of powerful rainstorm - to much of the United states, especially southern California and the desert Southwest, the south and some of the east coast.

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About the author


Kathleen Smith
VP of Marketing (2015)

Kathleen Smith was the VP of Marketing at HappyCo in 2015. She attended Stetson University where she studied Communications, Marketing, and Digital Arts. While at HappyCo, Kathleen started the Happy Thoughts blog and advocated for more resources such as the eBook "A Property Manager's Ultimate Guide to Technology."

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