Experts say rare mega-storm could damage California 3 times as much as a San Andreas earthquake

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A warning for California: get ready for the “other big one.”

That’s what scientists are calling the rare mega-storm, which is predicted to cause three times as much damage as a major earthquake that would hit along the San Andreas Fault, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The technical term for the “other big one” is an ARkStorm — short for “Atmospheric River 1,000.”

When will it hit? Maybe tomorrow, next year or 100 years from now. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently told Los Angeles-area officials and residents that the Whittier Narrows Dam would fail if such a storm happens, “unleash[ing] floodwaters from Pico Rivera to Long Beach.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the ARkStorm would last for weeks and send more than 1.5 million people trying to escape as floodwaters drown cities and form lakes in the Central Valley and Mojave Desert. 

Officials estimate the economic and structural damage from an ARkStorm would amount to more than $725 billion statewide. 

In a recent analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, heavy populated areas of the Los Angeles Basin could become overwhelmed by epic runoff from the San Gabriel Mountains down into the dam on the San Gabriel River. 

That would unleash floodwaters from Pico Rivera to Long Beach, according to officials. 

Yes, this mega-storm is expected to also wreak havoc on the Bay Area, too, especially in the San Francisco Bayshore and other coastal communities.

According to the report, scientists studying the thickness of sediment layers collected offshore in the Santa Barbara and San Francisco Bay areas have found geologic evidence of mega-storms that happened as far back as the years 212, 440, 603, 1029, 1418, and 1605. 

Scientists say in an extreme event such as the ARkStorm, a dam in the Bay Area has the potential to experience spillway damage or downstream erosion.

Officials estimate property loss (flood and wind) due to the ARkStorm would be the following in several Bay Area counties:

  • San Francisco County: $1.2 million
  •  Alameda County: $14.3 million
  • Contra Costa County: $16.4 million
  • San Mateo County: $11.4 million.

Now is an ARkStorm predictable? To an extent, scientists said.

Unlike earthquakes, there is a capability to partially predict key aspects of the mega-storm that would create damages in the days before the storm hits. 

You can learn more about the ARkStorm here. 

>> Click here to visit the KRON4 Weather Center.

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