Study Shows Ways California Coasts Can Avoid Flood Damage

As California transitions from drought-stricken state to El Niño-stricken state, a team of scientsists from the Nature Conservancy and UC Santa Cruz have come forward with a study that shows ways coastal regions of California can reduce flood damage.

The report’s primary focus is on risky costal developments that endanger themselves by impairing the floodplain’s natural ability to control water levels and prevent flood damage. The report provides a simple method for identifying areas with the greatest flood risk and providing the best habitat conservation benefits via FEMA hazard mitigation projects already in-place.

“We developed a multi-objective approach to identify areas where the greatest risk reduction and habitat conservation benefits can be achieved simultaneously in California, effectively killing two birds with one stone,” said lead author JulianoCalil to the San Jose Mercury News, a doctorate candidate in the Ocean Sciences Department at UCSC. “We are facing very complex environmental and socioeconomic problems around the world at an unprecedented scale. Approaches like the one we’ve developed, where distinct goals are combined into multi-objective projects, are going to be essential to solve these issues. It just doesn’t make sense to talk about reducing future flood risks and damages without considering restoring floodplains.”

From 1780 to 1980, California lost 91 percent of its coastal wetlands to development. Such coastal wetlands provide vital outlets for rainwater, which has nowhere to go without these areas. This rainwater goes on to flood these vulnerable coastal areas, like Sonoma County. The County takes up roughly 1 percent of California territory, but accounts for 32 percent of flood damage claims in the state.

“Unless we reduce risk globally, annual flood losses may top $1 trillion by the year 2050,” said co-author Sarah Newkirk to the San Jose Mercury News, coastal director of the California Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. “Risk reduction by fortifying unwise development will cause further loss of wetlands, but conservation and restoration of floodplains that act as buffers to coastal structures will help fisheries, beaches and coastal communities.”

Wet Weather Brings Mold Concerns

The recent rains to have affected Southern California are a boon to the region in many ways. However, with the increase in humidity comes an increase in mold risk, this is especially the case when temperatures remain high. Severalother regions across the U.S. have also become more alert to the recently increased mold risk.

It’s important that you do spot checks in location were mold is most likely to grow: dark, closed off areas with high moisture. As remediation expert Patrick Murphy elaborates:

Murphy pointed his flashlight into the air in a basement in Overland Park revealing white specks drifting up into the air. He says since mold weighs the same amount as air, this is a test you can do at home to see if mold is growing on your walls. The particles that float are mold, the ones that fall are dust. He also says mold tends to attract more spiders than usual. It’s easiest to find mold in the dark while shining a flashlight on the surfaces.

Murphy says the moment you spot mold, you need to get it looked at before it makes you sick.

“This is actually the guideline set out by the EPA, if you can see it or smell it, it should be a concern,” he stressed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of mold isn’t cheap. It costs most homeowners around $3,000 to have it professionally removed. Mold screening costs around $75-$100. To send mold into a lab to get it tested and to see if it poses a health threat costs around $350.

If you don’t currently have mold in your house, Murphy says you can keep your home protected now. Check your gutters and keep them clean. Most times, rain seeps into your house because the gutters weren’t cleaned or the water is able to seep in through the foundation.

A Horror Film about Evil Household Mold?

When we think of horror films and their antagonists, we usually think of machete-wielding slashers, clawed nightmares, and creepy dolls. We tend to not think of mold damage, let alone the strain of mold known as stachybotrys, as a sinister horror film baddie. However, not only was there a horror film on such a subject, but it was a film that saw a fairly wide release and starred Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Connley. The film is 2005’s Dark Water, and the film’s main threat is dark sinister stains that begin appearing in Connely’s character’s home. I’m serious.

Still less unsettling than David Bowie in tight pants.

Okay, not entirely serious. The mold imagery is prevalent in Dark Water, but the source of the staining is supernatural in nature rather than fungal. The apartment complex the Connley’s character and her daughter inhabit is haunted by the ghost of an angry dead girl that died in the apartment’s water tower. Her evil ghosty-ness, as opposed to mold, gives the plumbing leaks their sinister, black tint instead. Despite this, the staining very much resembles black mold stains you’d find in a property affected by water damage.

Supernatural ceiling stains in Dark Water (left) and real-world black mold stains (right)

Overall, the film is a rather forgettable horror thriller that ramps up some decent tension but is scant on scares. It’s a forgotten film that you can probably find in the Wal-Mart bargain bin. However, the mold imagery makes it a bit of a standout for anyone familiar with remediation or mold treatment.

California’s Biggest Major Fires

When it comes to California, every season is fire season. It seems that every year, a new wildfire breaks out that draws the attention of news media and worried onlookers. The most recent fire, the Lake Fire, has devoured over 30,000 acres. As daunting as that sounds, this doesn’t even put the Lake Fire on Cal Fire’s top ten list. As frightening as some of these fire stories can be, it can always be much worse. Here are brief looks at the top three biggest fires in recent California history.

Cedar Fire

The Cedar Fire that engulfed San Diego County was not only a notorious fire by itself, but it was also one of 15 different wildfires that occurred within the single month of October 2003. The Cedar Fire holds the top spot on Cal Fire’s list at over 273,000 acres burned, 2,820 structures lost, and 15 deaths. The fire was manmade and caused by a lost hunter attempting to light a signal fire in hopes of being rescued. The 2003 firestorm led to a variety of structural changes at state, local, and federal levels with how fires were fought.

Rush Fire

The Rush Fire erupted in Northeastern California from a lightning strike in August 2012. While it’s placed second on Cal Fire’s list at around 271,000 acres burned, this acreage doesn’t account for the rough 43,000 acres that burned in Nevada. Unlike the Cedar fire, the damage was mostly to unhabituated wilderness area resulting in no structure loss or deaths.

Rim Fire

Started by an illegal campfire in the Stanislaus National Forest, the Rim fire went on to burn over 257,000 acres of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in August 2013. The acreage is considerably less than the Rush fire, but the Rim fire was closer to population centers. This resulted in the loss of 112 structures, but thankfully no loss of life. The fire was not technically declared “out” until over a year later in November 2014.

Burning For You

Wildfires and the risk of fire damage are a part of everyday reality in California. It’s vital to keep the following suggestions in mind to ensure that you and your family areprepared should the unthinkable happen:

  • Make sure every room in your home has a fire alarm with fresh batteries
  • Make sure that your property has a fire extinguisher on hand
  • Keep your yard clear of dry brush
  • Make evacuation plan with your family
  • Ensure that your home is covered for wildfires by your insurance.
  • Verify the reporting procedure for your insurance company.
  • Let a fire restoration service handle the rest.

You probably won’t prevent the next big wildfire, but you can keep you and your family ready for the worst. By taking these relatively simple measures and following them through, you can make sure that you, your family, and your property are given the best protection against wildfire and fire damage as possible.