Bomb Cyclone-Fueled Storm, Floods Expose California Vulnerabilities | News & Community

Bomb Cyclone-Fueled Storm, Floods Expose California Vulnerabilities | News & Community

The massive, bomb-driven storm that ripped through California today — dumping more rain and snow on much of the already sodden state while lashing it with winds of up to 70 mph — is illuminating some of the fundamental issues of climate and environmental issues facing state lawmakers, who return to Sacramento today to resume the 2023 legislative session.

The storm — which could be followed by even more stormy rivers, blanketing California with rain and snow over the next week — comes at the end of a weekend storm that caused at least two deaths, blew up three steep slopes in the Sacramento Valley and disrupted force the energy. and road closures.

Discover the science behind the phenomenon.

What is a bomb cyclone?

The continued onslaught of storms could further strain California’s elaborate flood defense system, which in the Central Valley alone protects about 1.3 million people and $223 billion worth of property, CalMatters’ Julie Cart and Alastair Bland report.

It could also increase pressure on state lawmakers to invest more money in flood protection — a potentially tough sell as California stares at a projected $24 billion budget deficit.

A state board last month recommended a $30 billion investment over the next 30 years to protect the Central Valley from catastrophic flooding exacerbated by climate change. California currently spends $48 million a year on flood defense operations, although the state and federal governments are in the midst of a multiyear, multibillion-dollar project to improve flood defenses in the Sacramento region.

We haven’t figured out how best to take advantage of these wet years to get us through the dry.

Jeffrey Mount, a water specialist at the Public Policy Institute of California

According to Gary Lippner, the state Department of Water Resources’ deputy director of flood management and dam safety, “The investments we’ve made in the flood system have absolutely helped.

“I don’t foresee … there being a need for emergency management” from the current storm system, he said.

However, conditions could escalate to a “worst-case scenario” under “an unbroken series of storms,” ​​said Michael Anderson, a state Department of Water Resources climatologist.

That California is dealing with flooding in the midst of a historic drought is partly due to the “whiplash” of the state’s “semi-arid climate,” Jeffrey Mount, a water specialist at the Public Policy Institute of California, told Julie and Alastair: The state has just experienced. “its three driest years on record and, if this year continues, we’ll have a year like 2017, the wettest on record.”

But the flooding also reflects that “California’s ability to conserve surface water is limited. … We haven’t figured out how to best take advantage of these wet years to get us through the dry,” Mount said.

California ‘mega storm’ more likely with climate change

In California’s first snow survey of the season on Tuesday, officials announced that snowpack in the Sierra Nevada — which provides about a third of the state’s water — was at 174% of its historic statewide average for that date, marking the start of best nationwide snow season. in 40 years. But conditions can change quickly: After record rains and heavy snowfall from October to December 2021, California in 2022 recorded its driest January, February and March on record.

And the state is increasingly trying to accurately model how much water it can expect from snow in the Sierra Nevada. Last spring, his predictions were so far off the mark that the reservoirs were left with far less water than expected, underscoring the urgency of reforming the process, as CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reported.

Beyond flood protection, water storage projects and snow gauges, another issue state officials may face is seismic safety — brought to the fore by last month’s 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Humboldt County, which was struck by a another 5.4 magnitude earthquake on New Year’s Day.

California is fast approaching a 2030 deadline by which hospitals will be required to be able to function normally after a massive earthquake — or risk being shut down by the state. Hospital groups tried to delay the law just last year, arguing that the required improvements could cost more than $100 billion and force facilities in underserved communities to close.

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