USGS unveils California megastorm scenario

Jan. 14, 2011 at 4:32 PM

SACRAMENTO, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Scientists have developed a weather scenario in which California could be inundated by storms capable of producing up to 10 feet of rain.

The U.S. Geological Survey report on the so-called ARkStorm (atmospheric river) was released Friday at a conference in Sacramento and warned that if it developed, California would see widespread flooding that would cause roughly $300 billion in damage.

Despite its recent drought, California can receive fairly heavy rains in the winter months. The USGS said its examination of historical flood data coupled with climate-change projections add up to a hypothetical whopper winter in which a series of major soakers overwhelm the state's flood-control infrastructure.

"The ARkStorm is essentially two historic storms, such as the ones in January 1969 and February 1986, put back to back in a scientifically plausible way," Lucy Jones, chief scientist of the USGS Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project, said in a written statement. "The model is not an extremely extreme event."

The report said something approaching an ARkStorm occurred in California over a 45-day in the winter of 1861-62 and affected about one-third of the state's farmland. The Sacramento Bee noted that the storm flooded the capital city, forcing Gov.-elect Leland Stanford to arrive at his inauguration in a row boat.

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