BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Wendy Kraus-Smith is no stranger to the sting of Mother Nature’s fury. Nearly three years ago, she watched her family home near Walker Basin reduced to ashes in the Stagecoach Fire.
“You lose everything to wildfires and you don’t know what it possibly feels like until you’re here,” she said. “And then you’re like, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to suddenly be homeless.'”
The Kraus-Smith family picked up the pieces and started over in a home in the Kernville area.
“Next thing you know, we’re facing these torrential floods coming down the river,” Kraus-Smith said.
This winter, nature struck again with a series of brutal storms, threatening the Kraus-Smith’s new house.
“And of course, we don’t have flood insurance. It is very costly to have flood insurance,” Kraus-Smith said. “The fire insurance saved us when we lost the property at the Walker Basin.”
The Kraus-Smith family was able to fend off most damage during the floods.
“My husband and my 17 year old went out there and 12 hours of trenching and they had the water diverted to the road,” she said. “It would have been catastrophic to what we had just invested in.”
Now, with record snowpack sitting in our mountains, waiting for a few hot days to send it rushing from Isabella Lake through the Kern River, residents throughout the county are facing a similar situation.
“Prior years we get two calls a year. We are currently getting two calls a day about flood insurance,” Bakersfield State Farm Agent Elizabeth Cardenas said.
Cardenas said she has seen a surge in Bakersfield homeowners looking for added protection against the melting snow, but warned time is running out.
“If people are considering it, they should act now because not only is there a 30-day waiting period, but at any time, because the policy is written through FEMA, they can say we are going to shut it down,” Cardenas said.
Cardenas explains when a homeowners expresses interest in adding a flood policy, the first thing she does is run a report on a website called CoreLogic to find an addresses’ flood zone. She uses that information to write a quote, which varies widely.
“It’s about $800 to $2,000 a year depending on your flood zone area,” she said.
Free online websites allow homeowners to assess risk on their own. On FEMA’s website, for instance, residents can type in their address and find a color associated with the area’s flood danger.
“There is a white zone with no identifiable color, or it will be in a blue zone, which is a high risk flood zone, or it will be in an orange area on the map. That’s the next highest flood zone,” FEMA Public Affairs Representative Frank Mansell said.
Mansell cautions nature doesn’t always listen to maps and urges all residents to prepare.
“Mother Nature still will determine its own level. And if you’re dealing with levees, for instance –and you are [dealing with levees] a lot of time in the central California area — if a levee breaks anywhere, all bets are off,” Mansell said.
Mansell encourages residents to download apps such as the FEMA and Red Cross apps to find help and shelter during floods.