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Decaying dam leaves parts of California in path of rare megastorm destruction – study

Decaying dam leaves parts of California in path of rare megastorm destruction – study
A combination of freak weather and decaying infrastructure could see dozens of cities in the Los Angeles area washed away by 20 feet of floodwater. Army engineers have pleaded with the federal government to avert a crisis.

Drought-stricken California seems an unlikely location for a flood of biblical proportions, but the US Geological Survey has repeatedly warned that a rare storm event, known as an “ARkStorm” could dump unprecedented amounts of rainfall onto the state, flooding the Central Valley, causing $300 billion in property damage and triggering the evacuation of millions of residents.

The storm is known as a ‘900 Year Storm,’ not because it happens every 900 years, but because it has a 1 in 900 chance of happening every year. A similar storm in 1861 dumped 36 inches of rain on Los Angeles and rendered it impossible to cross the Central Valley without a boat.

Some scientists now argue that climate change has made the return of such a storm even more likely, and that the Golden State needs to brace itself.

“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 LA Times.

North of Los Angeles, one aging dam stands between the predicted flood and millions of people living below it.

The Whittier Narrows Dam holds back flood water from devastating much of Los Angeles County. According to a recent US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) report, it is in poor condition and would be ill-equipped to handle such a storm. Unusually heavy rain could seep over its lip, or erode the soil beneath the dam, leading to catastrophic failure.

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Even if the dam held firm, heavy rain could trigger an opening of its spillway, unleashing 20 times more water than the dam’s downstream channel could contain. The result, the report states, would be “very significant loss of life and economic impacts.”

The city of Pico Rivera, which sits immediately below the dam, would be hit first and hardest. Its 63,000 residents would be walloped with a 20-foot wall of water, sweeping away houses and making evacuation impossible.

From there, the flood would rapidly cover the cities of Artesia, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Carson, Cerritos, Commerce, Compton, Cypress, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Palma, Lakewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Montebello, Norwalk, Paramount, Rossmoor, Santa Fe Springs, Seal Beach and Whittier.

The USACE has asked the federal government for $600 million in funding to upgrade the dam, with the repairs slated for completion in 2026. Meanwhile, a separate UC Irvine study concluded that as many as 13 dams in the state may also need to be upgraded.

The USACE’s request for funding is unlikely to please the current administration. President Trump has blamed California’s refusal to implement controlled burnings for the wildfires that raged across the state last year, causing more than $3.5 billion in damages. The president has also bashed the state for failing to make progress on a planned high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Department of Transport has pulled more than $900 million in federal grants for the project and Trump has demanded that California “Send the Federal Government back the Billions of Dollars WASTED!”

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