Watch Out for MegaStorm!
Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
Just like the drivers with those license plate holders, the long-awaited rains finally showed up in California...a year late.
Last year scientists were calling the expected El Nino "the Godzilla of storms" and predicting the biggest rainy season in years.
We all know that didn't happen. But what a difference a year makes. Thanks to an atmospheric river of water vapor off the Pacific Ocean called the "Pineapple Express" the rains made it to California.
Now no part of the state is in "extreme drought" conditions. A year ago it was 40%.
The Sierra Nevada snowpack is currently "way above normal," says National Weather Service meteorologist David Miskus. In January the snowpack reached levels that aren't normally seen until April. With the Southern Sierras at 219% of average!
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel learned that the amount of rain since October has been much higher than average throughout the entire state.
Water levels in Lake Shasta, California's largest reservoir, have rebounded after record lows.
In Northern California the San Luis Reservoir West of Los Banos is expected to fill for the first time in six years.
Oroville Dam near Sacramento not only filled, but has had engineers monitoring it to avoid flooding.
While this year's rains caught everyone by surprise, scientists with the US Geological Survey say that even more rains may be on the way, noting that "California is due for an epic rain." Records show that every 100 to 200 years California experiences massive rainfall and floods.
To help the state prepare for a megastorm - like the 43-days of rain that hit California in 1862 - the USGS has put together a scenario called ARkStorm that assesses where and how to deploy resources in the case of flooding and other emergencies.
That megastorm came after a period of prolonged drought, too, and put much of California's Central Valley underwater. The flooding in Sacramento was so bad that people had to use boats to get around and the state capital was temporarily moved to San Francisco.
Drought or deluge? Only time will tell. For now, in California we've learned to keep our umbrellas handy.
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