Super storm heading to California?

By Trevor Warner|ParadisePost

The weather outside is beautiful and, according to predictions, will likely stay beautiful for a good week or so. But some scientists and weather experts are predicting a coming California Superstorm of Biblical proportions.

The Superstorm is believed to occur once every 100 to 200 years, leaving California only 50 years until the 200-year mark. Called the “ARkStorm,” the storm could produce up to 10 feet of rain creating massive flooding, landslides, communication disruption and more than $300 billion in damage according to the United States Geological Survey. After two years of research, the study was released at the “ARkStorm Summit” in Sacramento last week.

Leslie Gordon, USGS spokeswoman, said more than 100 experts from areas related to weather, economy, social sciences and more gathered to study the full implications of such a storm. The purpose of the study, she said, is so that people will make preparations in case the storm hits. The summit was attended by emergency response agencies like FEMA, CAL EMA, county planners and other agencies.

“This kind of storm has happened in the past although they are rare,” she said. “We’re not expecting this every winter, but we want people to be prepared if it does happen.”

The last time a similar storm hit the state was in December 1861 and January 1862 when about 300 miles of the Central Valley received more than a month of rain. The flooding was so bad that then governor-elect Leland Stanford had to take a rowboat to his inauguration, Gordon said. The hypothetical ARkStorm is modeled after California storms in January 1969 and February 1986, she said.

Scientists used a computer model to put those two storms together as if they occurred back-to-back, because they believe the scenario would be similar to the storm of 1861 and 1862. The storms in 1969 and 1986 were “very large storms by themselves” Gordon said, but do not qualify for an ARkStorm designation.

Gordon said the damage an ARkStorm could cause would be on par with a hurricane, though storms originating in the Pacific Ocean are not technically called hurricanes.

The name “ARkStorm” comes from the term atmospheric river (AR), “a phenomenon where very warm air that carries a lot of water comes up from the tropics and hits the West Coast,” Gordon said.

The atmospheric river phenomenon is also known as the “pineapple express” in layman’s terms, she said. She said it was a natural jump to go from “AR” to “ark.” The point is to make it memorable and something that would catch people’s attention. While some may decry the recent publicity of the Superstorm as a global warming scare tactic, Gordon said that is not the intention.

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