Flood risk low after mild winter, NOAA says

Forecasters believe the mild winter will lead to fewer cases of flooding this spring.

For skiers and snowboarders, this past winter will go down as a cold weather season to remember – and not in a good way. An El Niño weather pattern prevented many trails from seeing the kind of powder that they're used to. As a result, substandard conditions had many outdoor sports enthusiasts deciding to steer clear of the slopes, as there's always next year.

But there is a potential benefit to Old Man Winter's slumber: The chances for flooding this spring have diminished, according to a new long-range weather outlook for several parts of the United States.

In March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its seasonal flooding outlook for spring, the season when flood potential tends to be greater. Along the Atlantic corridor – particularly in New England – the risk for flooding is significantly less this year, largely because the region saw very little snowfall. This is a stark contrast from last year, when the Northeast saw record levels, totaling more than 100 inches, according to the National Weather Service and local meteorological reports.

The same is true in the Western half of the country, particularly in California, though the potential for flooding did moderate in some parts of the Golden State.

Risk highest in Southeast

The potential for flooding is still there, however, mainly in the Southeast. NOAA reported that parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and eastern Texas all have an elevated risk of moderate flooding, not to mention several states that border the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

"After a milder than average winter for almost all of the United States, the April through June season favors above-average temperatures over much of the nation, with the exception of the central and southern plains," warned Mike Halpert, Deputy Director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Climate scientists are quick to point out that an outlook is just that: a prediction of what may happen, not what will occur, as weather by its very nature is unpredictable.

"Heavy rainfall at any time can cause local or regional flooding, even in places where the risk is currently considered low," explained Tom Graziano, Ph.D., Acting Director of NOAA's National Water Center. "We encourage people to be prepared for the range of spring weather threats, including flooding, and tune into local forecasts to monitor their personal risk."

Over the last two years, many people learned just how damaging flooding can be. Between Jan 2014 and Dec 2015, almost 2.8 million water damage claims were filed nationwide, according to estimates from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Last year alone, there were 1.4 million water claims, up 1% from 2014.

Some of the states hardest hit included Florida, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Flooding No. 1 natural disaster

Though hurricanes and tornadoes often get a lot of the attention in the news when it comes to weather disasters, nothing compares to flooding, both in frequency and damage severity. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, floods are the No. 1 natural disaster in the U.S. This means that more floods happen than any other environmental catastrophe. To put this into perspective, in the last five years, all 50 states have experienced flooding or flash flooding.

It doesn't take much water to ruin things, either. Only an inch or two can render belongings useless, destroy hardwood flooring, and may even lead to foundation issues down the road.

Flood insurance can be your first line of defense. Contrary to popular belief, flood insurance is not included in a standard homeowners insurance policy – something many people only realize once they've been affected by flooding. That's why it's important to give your policy a checkup every so often to make sure you're sufficiently protected.

The chances for flooding may be lower this spring, but don't let that deter you from preparing for worst case scenarios. In addition to securing a policy, visit Ready.gov, which has tips on what you and your family can do to lower your risk of experiencing serious damage. The website also has tips on what to do before, during, and after a flood event.

With National PrepareAthon Day approaching, there's never been a better time!