Many people dread winter's freezing temperatures, icy roads, and of course seemingly endless snowstorms. With temperatures on the rise across the United States, people are basking in the warmer winter weather. But they might not want to celebrate too soon.
According to Scientific American, the U.S. is getting less snow during the winter. Instead, precipitation is falling in the form of rain. While you might not think this is a big deal—we're still getting some sort of water, right?—it can have more of an impact than you may realize.
Wetter winters can cause an increase in floods, wildfires, and water supply shortages. With these increased risks comes a higher chance that your home or car could be damaged. Read on to see how you can protect yourself from these hazards.
Water supply shortages
Melting snow is an important source of water during the summer months. Less snow in the winter means a smaller water supply later on in the year.
Kathie Dello, Deputy Director of the Oregon Climate Service, told Scientific American, "Since we get most of our precipitation from October to May, we really need the melting snow in the dry summer months to keep streamflows at acceptable levels for fish, water supply, recreation."
Another consequence of less water? A greater chance of wildfires.
An increase of rain during the winter, instead of snow, creates a greater likelihood a wildfire will occur. John Abatzoglou, climate expert at University of Idaho explained in a Scientific American article that snow melt provides moisture well into the summer, which helps prevent wildfires.
Now, according to USA Today, the wildfire season in the west coast is two months longer than in the 1970s. In fact, Climate Central notes that 2015 had a record number of wildfires in the United States. Wildfires scorched over 10 million acres across the country. The areas that saw the worst fires all had warm temperatures during the wildfire season and one other thing in common—a dry winter.
With this increase in wildfires, comes a greater risk of wildfires destroying people's homes. Thankfully, a standard home insurance policy provides coverage for wildfire damage.
Be careful though; some insurance companies may not offer coverage for wildfires if a home is in an area that’s considered high risk. Homeowners who live in a high risk area should confirm with their agent that they're protected.
Insurance Business America suggests homeowners also check for other coverages they might need if a wildfire occurs. These include protection from smoke and heat damages.
Increase in floods
While a drought or lack of water might be one of the first things you might think would happen as a result of warmer weather, a flood probably isn't.So why would one happen when there is an increase in rainfall during the winter?
It comes down to the way reservoirs are built, particularly in the Western part of the United States. Reservoirs and dams in the West were built for rainfall during the spring, rather than the winter.
When rain falls on snow, there is an increase in runoff that many reservoirs can't control. In particular, small reservoirs have trouble handling runoff in such large amounts.
And some western states are being affected the most by the warmer weather. Oregon is the state showing the biggest shift to winter rain instead of snow, with Washington coming in at fourth. Idaho is also showing a change to more rain, being the seventh most affected state according to the Scientific American study.
Floods can be very powerful, destroying trees, cars, and homes. Unfortunately, flood coverage is not included in standard homeowners insurance policies. But it's relatively inexpensive to buy. We’ve even written a guide on what you need to know about flood insurance.
By law, you need to have liability insurance for your car. But, a liability policy won't cover your vehicle for flood damages. You'll need to have comprehensive car insurance in order to have protection from a flood.