Massive West Coast Atmospheric River Storm “Inevitable”; Emergency Response Would Be Lacking

by | Jan 18, 2011 | Emergency Preparedness | 30 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    It happens once every one to two hundred years. The last one hit in the winter of 1861/1862 and is considered by some scientists to be the greatest storm in the written history of California. Reports indicate that the storms lead to flooding across the State of California and the entire Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys were inundated with water for an extent of 300 miles. John Carr, a witness to the devastation which poured heavy rains on the state for a continuous four weeks and rapidly melted snow from the mountains, wrote of the event:

    The winter of 1861–2 was a hard one…

    …as the current became stronger amongst the trees, one after another began to fall, some floating off with the water, and others hanging by the roots. Trinity that morning was playing havoc with the settlers on its banks. It was dreadful to look upon. Standing on high ground, one could see property of all kinds on its way to the ocean. The river itself seemed like some mighty uncontrollable monster of destruction broken away from its bonds, rushing uncontrollably on, and everywhere carrying ruin and destruction in its course. When rising, the river seemed highest in the middle. When falling, it became lowest in the middle, and all the drift worked toward the center of the stream. When the river was at or near its highest, one could see floating down parts of mills, sluice-boxes, miners cabins, water-wheels, hen-coops, parts of bridges, bales of hay, household furniture, sawed lumber, old logs, huge spruce and pine trees that had withstood former storms for hundreds of years—all rushing down that mad stream on their way to the boundless ocean….Not a bridge was left, or a mining-wheel or a sluce-box. Parts of ranches and miners cabins met the same fate. The labor of hundreds of men, and their savings of years, invested in bridges, mines and ranches, were all swept away. In forty-eight hours the valley of the Trinity was left desolate.

    The damage was estimated to have completely wiped out approximately one quarter of all taxable real estate in California.

    The United States Geological Survey and the Multi-Hazards Demonstrations Project launched a research study into the possibility that such a storm could happen again. The research teams concluded that an atmospheric and river storm, dubbed ARk Storm, would cause more damage than a large scale ‘shakeout’ earthquake along the entire rift of the San Andreas fault line.

    Some key findings from the research group:

    • Another ARk Storm is Inevitable – Such storms have happened in the California historic record (1861-1862), but 1861-1862 is not a freak event, not the last time the state will experience such a severe storm, and not the worst case.
    • Massive, State-wide Evacuations – Because the flood depths in some areas could realistically be on the order of 10-20 feet, without effective evacuation there could be substantial loss of life.
    • Economic Catastrophe – A severe California winter storm could realistically flood thousands of square miles of urban and agricultural land, result in thousands of landslides, disrupt lifelines throughout the state for days or weeks, and cost on the order of $725 billion. This figure is roughly 3 times that estimated for the ShakeOut earthquake, another planning scenario reflecting an earthquake with roughly the same annual occurrence probability as an ARkStorm-like event. The $725 billion figure comprises about $400 billion in property damage and $325 billion in business-interruption losses.
    • Wide-spread Flooding – Perhaps 25 percent of buildings in the state could experience some degree of flooding in a single severe storm.

    Source: USGS Overview of the ARk Storm Scenario [pdf]

    As we’ve seen in recent weeks, large scale flash floods or “instant Tsunamis” can cause catastrophic damage to communities, wiping out life and property in a matter of seconds.

    The population of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys exceeds one million people, and because of how and where those valleys are situated, an ARkstorm similar to the one from 1861/62 would be absolutely devastating, likely displacing the majority of that population. This does not include other low lying areas of the state which would be affected. Such an event would affect not only California, but have disastrous effects across the entire nation, namely economically.

    The USGS report also identifies various challenges faced by emergency response personnel:

    There is a lack of policy and experience among state and local emergency responders and government managers in dealing with the complexity of mass evacuations, short- and long-term housing needs, and the restoration of communities statewide once the flood waters recede.

    Translation: When it hits the fan, you’re on your own. Like any major natural (or man-made) disaster scenario from floods and earthquakes to hurricanes and tornadoes, expect that no one will be there to help, especially for the first 3 – 7 days. Federal, state and local response to Hurricane Katrina should be used as a guide.

    For those who live in natural disaster prone regions, it is imperative that you have prepared food, water, shelter and personal security measures in advance. It will be too late after the fact.

    For some preparedness guidance related to specific scenarios, consider the following from Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition. The information provided by Tess is of benefit even to those not specifically located in natural disaster prone areas of the country:

    Disaster Supplies for Surviving a Flood
    Preparing for an Earthquake
    Family Emergency Plan Check List

    Are You Ready Series: 72 Hour Kits

    Emergency Items: What Will Disappear First

    Video: The ARkStorm Scenario:

    What It Looks Like When The Rains Don’t Stop: Flash Flooding In Toowoomba, Australia [January 10, 2011]:

    More Australia Flood Footage [January 11, 2011]:

    USGS Shakeout Earthquake Scenario:


    It Took 22 Years to Get to This Point

    Gold has been the right asset with which to save your funds in this millennium that began 23 years ago.

    Free Exclusive Report
    The inevitable Breakout – The two w’s

      Related Articles


      Join the conversation!

      It’s 100% free and your personal information will never be sold or shared online.


      1. what will we ever do without Hollywood? crappy movies and ‘celebutantes’.

        \sorry, don’t live anywhere NEAR there. The ground moves and thats just not ‘natural’ to me. 🙂

      2. The peoples republik of Kalifornia needs a good flushing anyway.

      3. Damn that global warming…  Where’s Gore when we need him…  He could stop this madness!!!

      4. I’ll bet in 1861 when that happened the US citizens didn’t stick their hands out to the US government (i.e. taxpayers) to pay for their property loss. 

        They hiked up their britches, relied on family and neighbors AND THEMSELVES and made it happen.  Without Mommy Govt stepping in.

        End Entitlements.  Bring back Self Reliance.

      5. Hi Sketch & Chuckles…

        As a resident of “Kalifornia” I could wish you get flushed as well but I believe we are all in for it with the earth changes, and I believe in Karma as well.  I don’t wish ill on anyone I’ve never met, and although I might be pleased at the discomfort of my few “enemies” I don’t wish death or dismemberment on them or their families.

        People like you, in MY opinion, will be the first to perish, as you have no compassion for your fellow man, and Universe rewards like with like.

        Hopefully we won’t see more comments like yours, and if we do, we’ll chalk them up to lack of spiritual development and figure when the floods (or whatever) take YOU out, you will reincarnate with a bit more compassion for the suffering of others.

      6. Pretty hard to plan for something that only happens once in a few hundred years.  Meteors and asteroids have clearly hit the earth in the past, but to be able to plan for the aftermath of one is nearly impossible.

        What everyone SHOULD do is use some common (which isn’t common, as it turns out ) sense:

        1.  Don’t build your house in a flood plain.
        2.  Don’t build your house on a beachfront if hurricanes are a frequent visitor to your area.
        3. Don’t live in a crappy, old, multistory building in an active earthquake zone.
        4.  Keep the underbrush and woods trimmed well away from your house in area prone to forest fires….and just MAYBE consider something besides wood shakes for the roof ?
        5.  Keep enough food, water, etc to last several weeks (at a BARE minimum) with need for re-supply.  That alone would take care of 90% of natural disasters.

        and so on and so on.

      7. Michelle, take you a Midol and chill for a bit. It was a joke!!

      8. TnAndy,
        Most houses in Greek urban areas are multistorie appartment blocks. If we go, we go with A LOT of poor others 🙂
        We live in an appartment, and every time some earthquake hits, you feel your adrenaline skyrocket. There is no time to shit your pants, and surely no time to climb down the stairs.

        Be prepared just in case, but i wouldn’t bet that something will happen soon. Most likely is for the Etna volcano in Sicily to erupt.


      9. Michele   I agree with your spiritual development comment but karma works both ways…I also live in Ca (actually near the Trinity mentioned) and if this flood happens that too will be karma, yes ? Chuckles my be blunt, but the way I see it, this whole country needs a flushing. And whether it’s a flood or dollar colapse, isn’t that what’s coming our way, regardless…….unless you’re spiritually developed enough to break bread and feed the 5 million THERE WILL BE A FLUSHING. You call it karma, I call it reaping what you sow. If I might add, what this country reaps more than anything, is ignorance…..

      10. Manos,

        If the rood falls on you, I guess it didn’t matter if you lived in a one story house….ahahahaaa.   Never been in an earthquake, personally, and hope to stay that  way.

        My point was if you choose to live in San Francisco over the San Andreas fault, exercise some common sense about the construction of the building you choose to live in.  A building built in 1930 and full of old, steel gas lines among other things, would be way down my list.

      11. TnAndy,

        Been in an earthquake sucks. Here in Crete we have lots of them all year long. Still cannot get used to it.
        To describe a bit:  as soon as you feel the shaking, panic starts to get you.
        Then cold sweat runs through your neck to your back. Then adrenaline climbs while you mostly react rather than think.
        As it stops you actually feel your heart pumping like a V8 sports car.
        I wish that none of you ever faces it.
        My worst fear is not to be caught in the toilet with my pants down. If the building goes down just imagine what the fire department will find 🙂
        I know it’s not funny but a bit of self-sarcasm is ok.

        Living in Kentucky along the New Madrid fault has me looking at those buckets of food stacked 6 high a lot differently now.

      13. chuckles,

        It’s easy to say that after you make a stupid statement but I’ll always try to err on the side of forgiveness and believing people are good whenever possible.


      14. I agree with Jeff,
        America’s bill is coming due, and we must pay it.  I would rather it were an economic crisis rather than flooding, but either way, this country needs a serious purge and get back to basics, whichever comes first.  We consume, spend, live in luxury, and “enjoy life” in total ignorant darkness. We are slaves and most don’t even know it.
        Our middle class is still RICH compared to the middle classes in other countries. Believe me, I lived in Colombia for 10 years. Most Americans are spoiled, ungreatful little brats, who don’t care about the Constitution, our freedoms, or the perversion of our laws. I’m not saying they deserve to burn in H bc of it. It’s really not their fault. But, at this juncture, if they don’t want to pay attention, then they need a good shaking. They are giving too much power to the ones we (on this blog and elsewhere) are prepared to stand and fight against. THEIR FREEDOM ENDS WHERE OURS BEGINS. Enough!

      15. While the ArkStorm vid.  has some info in it… The answer of the USGS is to make a movie? WTF

      16. I agree with Nabisco.  I’ll bet the one in Naples, Italy (Mt Vesuvius) will do something more exciting some day before Mt Etna Manos.  Gore would (will) just tax us anyway.

      17. The flood toll would be massive. The one thing that needs to be understood is the tax revenue loss. Matters not where or when, the losses are long-term to complete. Not too many states could financially survive this type of blow.

        I fear the people that will demand what can’t be given by the government. Refugees congregate. If you don’t feed them all, game over.

      18. Which flavor of fine dining MRE will they be fighting over?  I’m always happy when I get the skittles & tabasco.

      19. All the doomsday scenarios for California are nothing more than Media trickery to try to convince the 20 million illegal aliens to head back South (across the US/Mexico border). Since they are all still here (and bringing their friends and relies over), the imminent threat of earthquakes, floods, fires, landslides, super-storms, sliding-into-the-Pacific, tsunamis, oil leaks, Chernobyl look-alike, bankruptcy, crime, volcanoes, super-volcanoes, etc., notwithstanding, they obviously are NO DUMMIES! 😉

      20. somethings are just out of our abilities to control…nature is a Motherfu@ker.
        and you cant win fighting her.
        being prepaired for such an event would be difficult , understatement for sure.
        but not having any preps would be asking for it, being trapped on your roof or on your own property surrounded by water, earth , or what ever mothernature just threw at ya, not having water and food after 6 days gets a bit rough
        there is no perfect prep, or one size fits all, but nothing is nothing, and nothing dont sound good.

      21. Flooding is the easiest natural crisis to deal with.   There is always advance notice and all you have to do is move yourself out of the flood area.   My advice to anyone living in an area prone to flooding is to rent a storage unit (now!  Don’t wait until it floods) and when the weather report looks bad or the rains keep coming and the creek is rising to load up a trailer and move everthing you value to your storage unit and then go someplace safe.  And buy flood insurance.  I know a man in California whose home was destroyed in a flood and between insurance, laws suits and items he recovered that insurance paid for he made about twice what his property was worth.

      22. Comments…..Chuckles

        The peoples republik of Kalifornia needs a good flushing anyway.

        Heh wait a minute, I live in California.  I live at a  fairly high elevation and if the flood reaches me, this whole state will be under water.  I don’t live in So. California so the likelihood of an earthquake hitting here is not as likely as S. California getting hit.  There’s more people prepared here–the government is the last entity I would want to depend on for anything for.  The people who will be hurt the most are the cocoapuffers. They will whine that the can of beans or the hard tack that they were served is not enough.  Kind of like what the cocoapuffers did during Katrina.  I have a friend who went there as a Red Cross volunteer–oh the stories she told when she got back.  People demanding a separate room to have sex, the food wasn’t good enough, and the best one was, can we leave and go to a McDonalds?

      23. Try getting shot at while your’re flying in a helo & leap frogging to pick up your wet SAR crewman.

      24. [There’s more people prepared here(Ca)  I grew up in so.Ca and earthquakes never bothered me. Of course I didn’t live in the middle of L.A. Move way north in the 80’s. My point, I literally do not know one person who is prepared or thinks farther ahead than tonights sitcom. Goldenfoxx says people near him are prepared(and I’m glad for him). Nothing I see resembles that in any way. These are, of course, the same people who voted for Pelosi and Boxer since forever. You tell me what kind of mentality that breeds…..

      25. When the fault 30 miles off the coast of San Diego finally give,
        everything along the coastline and inland 50 miles will be wiped
        out, all the way up to San Francisco.  Only fools live in that area.
        The only person I’ll miss when it’s over is Charlie Sheen!

      26. Comments….. Jeff, there are people prepared, they may not frequent this board, but there’s hundreds of other survival boards around besides this one.  Then you have people like Glenn Beck talking up preparing, and the millions of Mormons around who are taught to prepare.  My mother who lived through the depression is somewhat prepared, ITSHTF she’ll come to my house.  My son is prepared and still preparing, it never ends.

        I was thinking about the price of gas last night, and don’t know how anyone else thinks or feels about this, but if the truckers were to go on strike, that would cause such chaos like we’ve never seen before.  If the gas prices go where some are predicting, watch out.

      27. Like last month, rainfall amounts of 3-6″ throughout the state of california can cause extreme flooding, not completely damaging or life threatening, but still very dangerous.

        Having done some modeling for 100 year storms in southern california as part of a research project for graduation, they haven’t even come close to a 100(or forbid, a 500) year storm events devastation. 7″ of rainfall in 24 hours for most of the state during a 100 year storm would be unprecidented. Not sure about other portions of the state, but in San Diego this would completely level entire cities and suburbs. The storm response in the area is on the order of less than 1 hour for a rainfall basin of 100 square miles. This means that peak flood rates could hit so fast you could not leave many areas.

        My parents and brother still live in the San Diego area, luckily closer to the hills than the major floodways. Hopefully with two of them being marines they would be ok, but this is still a scary situation. Add an earthquake to the mix, even a minor one, and I don’t even want to think about the damage that can occur.

      28. I’m sick of  the rest of America stealing my money.

        I want all of my tax money to stay within my school district of where I live. That is all that matters to me. 
        no more stealing my money to feed some innercity brats.  No more spending it on roads in another state that I’ll never use.

        Abolish Federal, State, and County governments.
        All are too corrupt and responsible for all the debt.
        Let the people within their own school district run the entire show, elect their own local crooks as leaders.  And bring back hanging.

        Stop mooching every time a hurricane or earthquake comes.

      29. Quote – “The ground moves and thats just not ‘natural’ to me.”

        Umm… Anywhere in the World is a possible earthquake zone, you may wish to relocate off planet then.  Just saying.

        @My House = My Castle:
        Sounds like complete isolationism with no work to pay for those useless public schools.  If you have no roads connecting you to the outside world your customer base is pretty limited.

        How about instead of the extremism we see on here all too often we step it back a bit and meet in the middle where all the sane people reside.  I agree with abolishing the monstrosity we have now at all levels of government and starting over.  That makes sense.

      30. Looks like a great time to begin (if you haven’t already started) preparing an escape route including alternatives in the event you cannot keep to plan. What amazes me are the recent natural disasters that have been hitting us around the globe almost daily now. So many many people unprepared waiting for the cable to drop out of the air and pick them up.  Wonder how many of these stranded, starving, injured – physically and mentally wish they had prepared for these kinds of events.

      Commenting Policy:

      Some comments on this web site are automatically moderated through our Spam protection systems. Please be patient if your comment isn’t immediately available. We’re not trying to censor you, the system just wants to make sure you’re not a robot posting random spam.

      This website thrives because of its community. While we support lively debates and understand that people get excited, frustrated or angry at times, we ask that the conversation remain civil. Racism, to include any religious affiliation, will not be tolerated on this site, including the disparagement of people in the comments section.