Everything a Contractor Should Know About El Niño
By: Allen Anderson / September 10, 2015

Every 2-7 years, El Niño disturbs the global climate. For reasons only partially understood, warmer than normal ocean water rises to the surface of the Pacific Ocean, West of South America. El Niño is predicted to start this winter and typically lasts from 9 months to 6 years. Different parts of the world are affected in different ways, most of which is the global fishing industry. In North America, El Niño means more rain and snow in the Southwest, and warmer drier weather in the North.

What is El Niño?

Officially known as El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, occurs when the colder, nutrient rich waters are too deep for fish. As a result, the global fish population decreases. Due to increased levels or decreased levels of precipitation on land, landslides, flooding and other construction nightmares are a common place. In the United States however, mostly precipitation is affected.

El Niño brings more precipitation and cooler temperatures to areas like California and the rest of the Southwestern US. This presents an issue, because the normal climate in this area is typically dry. While areas reliant on ski tourism can expect a boom in business, other areas can be prone to mudslides and flooding. Overall, the sudden climate change presents a number of threats and opportunities each contractor should be aware of.

Threats: California

California and its Southern cities are famous for their hot and sunny climate. This means that the state usually enjoys year-round construction. However, there is potential for millions of dollars worth of damage with the forecasted increase in precipitation brought by El Niño. The largest El Niño in 1997 was estimated to have over $25 million dollars of damages in the US alone.

Threats: Southwest U.S.A.

The Southwest as a region experiences colder temperatures and more precipitation. More snowpack is generated in the mountains, which leads to an increase in avalanches, mudslides, and floods. More snow and rainfall increases the potential for freeze-thaw to damage buildings. This makes weatherproofing even more important than usual. Despite the warnings associated with El Niño, the construction industry does directly benefit from it.

Benefits of El Niño to the American Construction Industry

Different areas of the U.S.A. experience different climates from El Niño. The Southwest’s increased rain and snowfall and their lower temperatures present a test for existing buildings. However, if any damage occurs, and this winter’s El Niño is predicted to be a big one, contractors will be needed to fix it. In the North, warmer than normal temperatures present construction companies with an opportunity to build during the winter months.

Preparing For Success

People are in need of contractors, in normal times and when structural damage(s) have occurred. Follow these tips to ensure that you and your team is ready for high demand of your products, and your expertise:

  1. Brush Up Your Sales Knowledge: with an increase in precipitation and cold, you should prioritize your selling around roofing systems. There will be high demand for weatherproofing and roofing products so make sure you know your products inside and out.

  2. Prepare Your Sales Team: El Niño has produced some massive storm systems in the past. Make sure you have a plan of action ready to be put in place for your sales team if certain opportunities or issues arise.

  3. Prepare Your Service and Maintenance Crew: make sure you have the proper tools and training to brave the weather, and have a plan for emergencies. Your service team needs proper training so they can respond to a service call as quickly and with as much efficiency as possible.

  4. Plan Your Deliveries and Inventory: distribution can be a nightmare during hazardous weather conditions. Make sure you have backup routes in place, and that you have a set plan for when items increase in demand.

  5. Make Sure Your Crew Knows What Is Coming: the best way for contractors to prepare for El Niño, is to inform and educate their team. When the weather starts to come down, your employees know and understand what to do.

Make sure you know your closest distribution center to plan accordingly for this winter, El Niño, and for the future.

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