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Scientists Predict California “Superstorm,” With Consequences Worse Than a Major Quake

By Heather Turgeon |

Natural disasters and California superstorm

California due for a "superstorm"

We know here in Southern California we’re in prime earthquake territory, but on Friday scientists ended a conference convened by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the geological survey, and the California Emergency Management Agency.

The consensus — California is ripe for a different kind of natural disaster:  the “superstorm.” The New York Times describes the prediction as “a catastrophic storm that could tear at the coasts, inundate the Central Valley and cause four to five times as much economic damage as a large quake…carrying tropical moisture from the South Pacific and dropping up to 10 feet of rain across the state.”

Apparently California is due for such an event, and here’s why:

Weather catastrophes like this have occurred in the past (as told by tree-ring data and modern historical records). In the winter of 1861, it stormed for 45 days, drenching a 300 mile long, 20 mile wide stretch of California from Sacramento to Bakersfield. Lakes formed in the dessert, according to a survey account “turning the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea, forcing the state capital to be moved from Sacramento to San Francisco for a time, and requiring Gov. Leland Stanford to take a rowboat to his inauguration.”

My husband, son, and I live here, within close range of the coast. As a parent, it makes me nervous whenever I feel a slight rumble of a quake (I’m not used to this as a Northeasterner), or hear talk of fault lines and aftershocks. Predictions like this make me feel even more shaky about the notion of raising our little family in such precarious territory. Was anyone really meant to live in this part of the country?

If you’re a Californian, is this something you think about. If so, how do you prepare?

Image:  flickr

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About Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Scientists Predict California “Superstorm,” With Consequences Worse Than a Major Quake

  1. George says:

    10 feet of rain? A storm rivaling a big storm in…1861? Are you kidding? What a bunch of hype! As if parents and kids didn;t have enough to worry about, this kind of blather is irresponsible and false!
    By the way, California WAS struck by a hurricane once…in September of 1939. A big El Nino year.

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