California Construction Industry Braces for El Nino


[NOAA researchers estimated the total U.S. economic impact of the last major El Nino in 1997 to be around $25 billion.]
NOAA researchers estimated the total U.S. economic impact of the last major El Nino in 1997 to be around $25 billion. nasa.gov

Forecasters say there’s an increasingly good chance of a strong El Niño system pounding California this winter, which is exactly what the state's depleted supply needs. However, the weather system could wreak havoc on the state’s construction industry. 

"We're getting more and more attentive to the projections," said Tom Holsman, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of California.

Holsman says California is normally a great place to build, because it’s one of the few places where it's possible to work year-round. But that changes during an El Niño year.

“An El Niño means soil conditions are damaged because of the storm, so delivery of materials and workers ability to go to work – those things will be hobbled,” said Holsman.

NOAA researchers estimated the total U.S. economic impact of the last major El Niño in 1997 to be around $25 billion, but for the construction industry El Niño also has a strong upside.

An American Meteorological Society study published in 1999 found the U.S. construction industry gained around $500 million in business after the storm, which was certainly Holsman's experience; All those damaged buildings need someone to fix them.

“While the work may stop one day, it becomes much more intense following the storms," Holsman said.