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    December 2014 Bay Area Storm: What Are The Typical Damages We May Expect?

    Clark Stoner - Thursday, December 11, 2014


    Damage assessment by an engineer following a flood event may be broken down into categories. First, there will be questions regarding the origin of the damage and second, engineers may need to evaluate the extent of damage and provide a scope of repair.


    The source of the water must be determined; was it flood waters flowing from a creek, river or other watercourse, or was it the result of a failed or overwhelmed storm drain system, ground water, sewer back up, sump pump failure, or a combination of sources. The source of the water will likely affect insurance coverage and should be clearly defined by the evaluating engineer.


    Flood and water damage assessments may include evaluations of structural damage due to hydrostatic and hydrodynamic pressures. Structures may be lifted as a result of being buoyant in a flooded condition, or the land beneath the foundation may have eroded away, or settled, placing the foundation under distress.  Evaluation of foundations may need to be performed.


    While the cause of the damage may seem obvious, conditions following a flood such as cracking in walls or ceilings, may not be related to the flood event. It is important to determine whether or not the damage existed prior to the flood event. Often damage that was present prior to a catastrophic event was unnoticed by the insured, who now believes the damage was the result of the event. The investigating engineer should be able to determine if the suspect damage was the result of a specific event.


    Other services that may be required once the extent of the damage has been determined, include a scope of
    repairs to assist the claims adjuster in determining the value of the loss.  Additionally, identification of construction or design deficiencies may be important factors to consider as they may have caused or contributed to the flood damage. All contributing parties must be identified as subrogation will be allocated to all parties who may have contributed to the loss. Moisture intrusion, microbial issues and air quality may also become issues or come into play.


    All of the above items discussed came into play following the March 2011 storm that contributed to the failure of a storm drain pipe, which then flooded Capitola Village.  Nearly 90 residential and commercial properties were flooded as a result, including the Fire Station and Police Department.  See our blog post concerning the 2011 Capitola Village flood.  Was the flood an Act of God?  Or was it caused by the failure of the storm drain system? 


    So here we are again with this December 2014 Bay Area Storm.  There will be a lot of clean up work to do.  God may have brought the rain, but its behavior upon hitting the ground is predictable.  As engineers performing these types of forensic investigations, we will be determining how various damages were caused, whether flood related, wind related, or both, and providing detailed reports to document the facts for our clients.


    Click for Video footage of the March 2011 Capitola Flood.






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