The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has just released a report about a massive “superstorm” that could flood a quarter of the state’s homes and cause $300 billion to $400 billion in damage. A team of 117 scientists and experts point out that the potential scale of destruction in this storm scenario is four or five times the amount of damage that could be wrought by a major earthquake.
Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey warned federal and state emergency officials that such “superstorms” have happened in the past, and should be added to the long list of natural disasters to worry about in California.
The report said that a 300-mile stretch of the Central Valley was inundated from 1861-62. The floods were so bad that the state capital had to be moved to San Francisco, and Governor Leland Stanford had to take a rowboat to his own inauguration. Even larger storms happened in past centuries, over the dates 212, 440, 603, 1029, 1418, and 1605, according to geological evidence.
The threat of a cataclysmic California storm has now been dormant for the past 150 years. The risk is gathering momentum now, scientists say, due to rising temperatures in the atmosphere, which has generally made weather patterns more volatile.
The scientists said that the storm could last for more than 40 days and dump 10 feet of water on the state. The storm would be goaded on by an “atmospheric river” that would move water “at the same rate as 50 Mississippis discharging water into the Gulf of Mexico,” according to the AP. Winds could reach 125 miles per hour, and landslides could compound the damage, the report notes.
The whole report from the USGS can be viewed here.