28 November 2012

The Hammer is now poised over the West Coast

15 Kislev 5773

River of storms headed for Northern California

It's shaping up as California's equivalent of a hurricane: A series of warm, wet storms arriving today that will be unlike anything the state has seen in years.

...If this comes to pass, Sacramento could receive more rain in a few days than it gets in an average January, typically the wettest month of the year.

...The first storm arrives today and lasts through Thursday. It is expected to be relatively mild.

The second hits Friday and will be the real soaker, lasting through Sunday with drenching rain and strong winds. A third, even wetter storm, may follow later on Sunday.

Sacramento could see sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph. The Sierra Nevada foothills could see gusts up to 55 mph.

These are warm storms and snow levels will be high – 7,000 feet and up. That means many Sierra highway passes could stay free of snow. But it also means more terrain will be exposed to rainfall runoff.

..."These are the types of events that are responsible for the biggest flood damages on the West Coast," said [Marty Ralph, an expert on the phenomenon at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.] "To me, that's the analogue to the hurricane problem."

...In Sacramento, one of the capital region's premier sporting events, the 30th annual California International Marathon, is expected to go ahead on Sunday despite the weather. Organizers say the race has never been canceled.

[Reminiscent of New York City Marathon and Sandy?]

More than 15,000 people are expected at the 26.2-mile race, which starts at 7 a.m. Sunday near the base of Folsom Dam.

...High winds and soaked ground raise the potential for downed trees and power outages.

Deja vu, except for the surge of ocean water. However, this part of California has something in common with New Orleans. It has an aging levee system which poses a hazard to area residents in the event of failure. See what this 2006 article has to say about it:

California mired in its own levee crisis
Officials, in a stalemate, struggle to find money for repairs - despite rising warnings of failing levees.

New Orleans' levees aren't the only ones getting close scrutiny these days. California's deteriorating network of water barricades - humbler in structure than those in the Big Easy but no less key to the health and safety of millions of residents - is prompting state and local officials to speak in "state of emergency" terms.

...The threat of levee failure in northern California is immediate and widespread, warn experts. Depending on where a failure in the vast system occurs, it could be hurricane Katrina-like in scale, they add.

At serious risk are cities large and small, including the state capital; the San Joaquin Valley in central California, producer of half the nation's fruits and vegetables; and drinking water for 24 million Californians.

Then there's this from two weeks ago:

California's Katrina?

The scenario is known as “California’s Katrina.” An earthquake or superstorm causes Gold Rush-era earthen levees to collapse. Saltwater from San Francisco Bay floods the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, displacing half a million lowland Californians, poisoning the water supply for as many as 28 million more who live in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Silicon Valley, and ruining farmland that produces 11 percent of the nation’s agricultural value. The eighth-largest economy in the world could be sunk for months, even years.


In other flooding news:

Wild storm hits Western Australia
A BRUTAL storm has left more than 50,000 homes in Perth and regional Western Australia without power, as emergency services scrambled to cope with widespread damage to schools, heritage buildings and homes across the state.

UK Floods, Worst Flooding Since 2007, Extreme Weather Global Weirding?

The UK looks set to experience its worst series of floods since at least the great floods of 2007 when areas that had never flooded in living memory experienced what would turn out to be their worst floods in over 150 years.

The latest of a series of heavy rain fall induced flooding is being experienced by the south and south west areas of England and Wales, with over 500 flood warnings in place nation wide, as one of the wettest summers on record had left the ground saturated, unable to soak up additional heavy rain fall that is resulting in the failure of drainage systems.

The current wave of flooding follows on from highly damaging flooding earlier in the year (September) that literally resulted in roads and foundations of buildings being washed away that were subsequently demolished.

The following Met Office graph illustrates the increasing volatility in the extremes of weather that the UK is facing as a drought during the first 3 months of the year gave way extraordinarily heavy rainfall from April onwards, continuing in June, and July with rainfall of as much as 225% of the annual average. The Above average rainfall has continued into this month which looks set to turn out to be another record month for rainfall.

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