Every Southern California resident is aware of the risk of a catastrophic earthquake. But experts are increasingly worried that torrential rains, not a temblor, could give way to the “Big One” that decimates much of the Southland.
They call it an ARKStorm and they believe it could cause three times as much damage as the mega quake Angelenos have been warned about for decades.
For weeks, precipitation of epic proportions could rain down on the region causing catastrophic flooding in the cities of Artesia, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Carson, Cerritos, Commerce, Compton, Cypress, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Palma, Lakewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Montebello, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Rossmoor, Santa Fe Springs, Seal Beach, and Whittier. It could completely destroy the Whittier Narrows dam, send 1.5 million residents scattering, and cause an estimated $725 billion in statewide damage.
It has happened before. The Great L.A. Flood of 1861 and 1862 was so monumental that it changed the physical makeup of Los Angeles and Orange Counties forever. You can read more about it here.
“A newer study suggests the chances of seeing another flood of that magnitude over the next 40 years are about 50-50,” UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain told the Los Angeles Times.
The dire warnings — including a recent analysis from the U.S. Corps of Engineers — are not being lost on federal, state, and local officials. The corps is seeking $600 million from Congress to upgrade Whittier Narrows, which is just one of many pieces of water infrastructure that could fail during a catastrophic flood. L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis recently met with members of Congress to discuss the project. Meanwhile, the City of Pico Rivera has undertaken its own preparedness program with the help of a $300,000 state grant.
Just a few months ago, such catastrophic flooding in the L.A. area would have been hard to imagine. After all, California is just emerging from a five-year drought that led to water rationing, wildfires, and the ripping out of pristine lawns. But a recent spate of storms across the state show just how quickly things can change. The mid-February storms dropped 18 trillion gallons of water on California, nearly eliminating the state’s drought.
Climatologists say there’s much more to come. Are we prepared?