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California: The Flood That Could Change Everything [must read esp. if you live in CA]

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By Eric Zerkel December 2017  read full Weather Channel article here

….The water will linger for days, weeks and in some places months. By the time it subsides the final toll will redefine the word catastrophe: More than $850 billion in damages (adjusted for inflation), more than four times costlier than Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. More than a million people forced to flee their homes in one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history, and many who return will return to nothing.

This is California’s megaflood, a catastrophe not seen in a lifetime, but one scientists, disaster experts and officials know is coming in a warming world. No one knows when it will come, but it has happened in centuries past, and these are just some of its scientifically predicted and realistic impacts in modern day California. 

Now climate change is increasing the chances that not only will these rare flood events become the norm in California, but that in the decades to come they could be even more intense than the one predicted here.

California’s once-in-centuries catastrophe is no longer a future problem. Billions of dollars of local, state and federal action to bolster the state’s outdated flood protections have come too late and isn’t enough to protect the millions of Californians currently at risk of such an event and the millions more who will be at risk in the decades to come.

Californians are playing climate catch-up in a state that’s ground zero for climate change’s future megafloods…..

….June’s water bond, the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access For All Act of 2018, calls for another $4 billion in bonds for statewide parks and water projects, but only $1.3 billion of that is allocated for water projects, and further, only $550 million of it is set aside specifically for flood protection and repair.

Of that $550 million, $350 million is designated to the DWR for flood management in the Central Valley, including $50 million specifically set aside for levee repairs in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Deltas.

Some $100 million is available for grants for “stormwater, mudslide, and other flash-flood-related protections” and another $100 million for grants for “multibenefit projects in urbanized areas to address flooding” statewide.

But the bill’s primary goal is investment in parks, particularly in communities without access to parks, leaving flood protection as a footnote. The bill’s author, Kevin De León called it “the single largest investment in the history of the United States to park-starved communities.”

The proposed November bond, drafted by the former deputy secretary of the state Natural Resources Agency, Jerry Meral, aims to be “complementary” to the June ballot measure and “make sure that no critical problem was totally ignored,” filling in some of the gaps of flood protection funding from the June bond.  …

The Flood That Could Change Everything

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Water Resources (2013)

The Flood That Could Change Everything


The Flood That Could Change EverythingThis January 1862 photo shows floodwaters along K Street looking west from 4th street in Sacramento after the Great Flood of 1861-62. (California State Library, DWR)

The Flood That Could Change Everything

Changing Climate, Changing Floods

Climate change’s expected increase in temperatures and extreme precipitation will combine to produce more epic floods in California. This graphic shows how warmer temperatures will melt snowpack quicker and dump more rain and less snow on mountain ranges, leading to more prolific floods. Source: California Department of Water Resources 2017

The Flood That Could Change Everything

One of the 23,000 homes flooded during the 1997 floods in California. (Norm Hughes/California Department of Water Resources)

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