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California’s ‘big one’ may not be an earthquake

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 7:19pm MDT
A 'super storm' like one that struck California 150 years ago would flood an area hundreds of miles long. (USGS / Google Earth)

A 'super storm' like one that struck California 150 years ago would flood an area hundreds of miles long. (USGS / Google Earth)

California and earthquakes go together like coffee and a cup but a new study suggests that an entirely different kind of disaster may have a bigger impact.  The U.S. Geological Survey gathered 117 scientists to evaluate a hypothetical – but possible – “super storm” and its impact on the Golden State. 

At the end of 1861 and into the beginning of 1862 a very wet Pacific storm inundated California with rain.  This storm turned much of the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea and flooded an area hundreds of miles long. 

Today, California is the United State’s most populous state and it has the equivalent of the eighth largest economy in the world.  The study shows that if a similar storm were to occur today the result would be disastrous. 

The implications of this disaster scenario are tremendous and stretch far beyond California’s borders.  Further, one has to wonder ‘what if’ Thornton and the Denver area were presented with a similar scenario? 

Read more about the study at the Natural Disasters Examiner.

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