El Nino is something we’ve all heard of in passing conversations here and there, but few know what the weather event actually entails, what it means for them, their homes, or in the restoration industry, for their business. 

They say that ignorance is bliss, and information is power; but when it comes to the predicted effects of the El Nino weather systems estimated for this year, there is no bliss in the ignorance that property owners will undoubtedly feel when their homes or businesses are inundated, nor is there power in information unless capable restoration companies utilize it effectively.

So what exactly is El Nino anyway? 

First of all El Nino is only a nickname for this weather system and the events that it causes. The full name of this atmospheric cycle is called El Nino Southern Oscillation, and it describes the variabilities associated with a swath of ocean water that can greatly affect temperature and moisture differentials between water and air in the equatorial Pacific. 

What that really means is that, the typical weather patterns people have come to expect at certain times of year in certain locations are in flux. The systems that produce El Nino events can last for as little as nine months, but also up to two years. 

Areas like the southwestern United States as a whole can expect wetter winters than usual, and the northwestern states will have dryer conditions than usual. The effects of El Nino are even associated with decreased intensity and quantity of Atlantic hurricanes. In total, the nature of an El Nino season has wide ranging and long lasting variations on the usual weather systems throughout the nation. 

What can we expect for El Nino this year? 

This year, Mike Halpert with NOAA CPC (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center) expects the 2015 El Nino season "could be among the strongest in the historical record dating back to 1950.” Additionally, NOAA’s report indicates a 90 percent chance that this El Nino will follow through during the winter of this year, and an 85 percent chance that it will bleed into spring too. 

The 1997 El Nino season was the strongest on record and the data emerging from the Pacific this year indicates this cycle is already stronger than in the past. When compared to previous El Nino events, this year is already gearing up to dwarf existing records. 

That means there will be a rise in flooding, mudslides, severe storms, escalated winter extremes and generally increased chaos throughout the country. On a regional level this will likely mean an increase in winter rain and snowstorms for the Southwest, increased tornado activity for the plains states, and a decreased likelihood of hurricanes in the east. It should be noted, that these are just predictions, and anything can change with a slight variation in the El Nino butterfly effect. 

What does this mean for restoration companies? 

This question of preparation is difficult to answer because it may be a great return on investment to purchase double the air movers, dehumidifiers, or flood pumps, and it could also backfire, leading to these items going unused if the weather doesn’t perform as predicted. 

The best ways to prepare for the effects of El Nino this year might simply be to remain vigilant with monitoring the changes that it can produce in the normal cycle of things. Rather than doubling up on equipment, it may be more cost effective to double up on the time spent researching weather systems as they approach to determine what effect, if any, they will have on a company’s service area. 

Overall, the best method for preparation with El Nino may be to simply be aware of what it does, and where it does it. Familiarizing one’s self with the nature of this weather cycle can help to determine potential scenarios in which restoration companies will play a role. 

What Should My Restoration Company Do to Prepare? 

Restoration companies throughout the country can prepare for this weather cycle event by increasing their awareness of what it entails. Beyond this it never hurts to connect and align business objectives with other similarly related companies such as roofers, plumber s, tarping companies and board-up businesses in order to have connections on-hand that can be tapped in a time of emergency. 

With this El Nino season predicted to be the most extreme in more than 50 years, it will be a boon to businesses that expand their network of industry-related connections because when the clouds start to gather for record breaking levels of damage, it will already be too late to develop alliances of any significant benefit. 

Additionally, restoration companies can take advantage of the many various weather tracking systems that are even in smart phone app form at this point in order to capitalize on the fluctuations that this year’s El Nino cycle will produce. These apps are great for a minutia of information about a local area, and they display weather conditions in real-time. 

Restoration companies can tap into the worries that this El Nino season is likely to inspire as a door opener for inspections to keep homeowners both mentally and structurally prepared for when this weather does take effect.