Scientists Warn Mega-Storm Could Make 'Lakes' of California Cities

If you live in California, you've heard predictions of a disastrous earthquake dubbed "the big one." Now, scientists are warning of an epic rainstorm that could cause three times as much damage.

1 minute read

February 23, 2019, 11:00 AM PST

By Elana Eden

Feather River

David Brimm / Shutterstock

The U.S. Army Corps is warning Californians of "very significant loss of life and economic impacts" that could result from a rare but extremely serious storm, the Los Angeles Times reports. Scientists fear a weeks-long torrent that could "inundate cities and form lakes in the Central Valley and Mojave Desert," displacing more than 1.5 million people and causing $725 billion in damage statewide.

Such a storm has an estimated 1 in 900 chance of occurring in any given year—but more extreme weather patterns caused by climate change mean that the risk is likely understated. "A newer study suggests the chances of seeing another flood of that magnitude over the next 40 years are about 50-50," one expert told the Times.

The state's infrastructure is not prepared to handle the deluge. At 60 years old, the Whittier Narrows Dam is at particular risk of collapsing drastically in the event, sending "epic runoff" flooding into heavily populated areas from Pico Rivera to Long Beach. Upgrading that dam is now the Army Corps's No. 1 priority nationwide—but it needs $600 million in federal funding to do so.

Monday, February 18, 2019 in Los Angeles Times

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