An estimated magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck central California early Sunday morning, jolting many Bay Area residents awake.
The U.S. Geological Survey reports that the event struck around 3:20 A.M. local time near Napa Valley, California. The region has since been rocked by multiple small aftershocks.
The largest trembler to hit the area since the 1989 Loma Prieta event, the extent of its resulting damage is still unknown. According to early reports, at least 70 people are injured and there are ongoing numerous power outages. There was a major fire in a Napa mobile home park, and several buildings in the region have suffered partial damage.
The major quake comes at a time when homeowner participation in the state’s earthquake insurance policy program, run by the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), is at a recent low. Earthquake damage is not generally covered under standard homeowner policies in the state.
The CEA was created in the aftermath of the 1994 magnitude 6.7 event in southern California. The historic earthquake resulted in direct economic losses of around $25.7 billion, including damaged homes, highways, stores and government buildings.
According to the CEA, only 11.94 percent of California homeowners with regular insurance also had earthquake insurance in 2013. Participation is down from 2009, when 13.86 percent of homeowners with regular insurance also had earthquake coverage.
The number of residents with earthquake coverage might be going down during the last five years, but overall more homeowners are buying regular insurance. From 2009 to 2013, the number of total regular insurance polices for homeowners increased from 6.1 million to 6.3 million, according to CEA annual reports. During that time, the total number of homeowner earthquake policies dropped from 847,505 to 758,397. (For more information, check out CEA’s annual report for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.)
So, what does this all mean in terms of this recent earthquake? If homeowners experience a lot of damage and they don’t have the proper insurance, the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have to help front the bill.
That’s what happened in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy with flood insurance. The major tropical storm made landfall along the East Coast in late fall of 2012. In the impacted area, a cross-section of several states, thousands did not have flood insurance coverage. Consequently, more than fifty percent of the people who applied to FEMA for flood-related damages did not receive aid. And of the ones who did get help, many had to wait months to over a year to receive the payout.