For many residents returning to their foothill homes after last week’s mudslides and evacuations, insurance will soon play an important role in the future of their houses. But some policyholders may be surprised by the fine print in their plans.
The evacuation lifted today was in effect since Monday night in La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Acton, and two canyons. Winter storms brought cascades of mud down slopes scorched by last fall’s wildfires, damaging 43 homes.
Now residents have returned home to begin picking up the pieces. But for those without the right insurance, that process could be even more of a challenge.
The general California home insurance plan does not include flood coverage, says Pete Moraga, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California. Even if a homeowner goes ahead and purchases a flood insurance plan, it will only cover damage from what is called “mudflow”. Damage from a mudslide is a whole different issue.
Pete Moraga, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California, talks about mudslide insurance coverage.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decides what will fall under flood and mudflow coverage versus mudslide coverage. A mudflow is when more water than dirt runs off from a storm, while mudslides involve more dirt. Mudflows and mudslides pose different risks and therefore require different insurance plans.
Moraga says that insurance companies make it a priority to explain to homeowners exactly what their plans cover, since the distinction between mudflow and mudslide can be confusing.
For those without insurance coverage, Moraga admits, it will be hard to recover. Insurance companies do provide aid in times of disaster, but can’t provide money to those who are not insured. Insurance plans are like contracts, which state the strict limitations that insurance companies must follow when reimbursing customers for damages.
The advice Moraga gives to prevent becoming dependent on charities or local organizations after a disaster is for homeowners to know what risks exist in their area, and to make sure they are aware of what their insurance plans cover.