Can Sacramento Flood?

Sacramento, the capital city of California is located at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American river. It is known as the "City of Trees" as it has a lot of lush green trees as compared to any other major city in the U.S. The nearby areas also provideopportunities to experience and adore places of natural beauty such as Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

John Sutter and the founding of Sacramento

The early inhabitants of the region were the Maidu people. It was later in 1839, that Swiss pioneer John Sutter established Sutter ford in the area and formed the colony of Nueva Helvetia (New Switzerland). This place experienced massive growth in a short period of time. The population increased the most during the Gold Rush time. After a gold nugget was found at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, there was an influx of gold-seekers.

The Sacramento valley has had a history of floods and on New Year’s Eve, before entering 2023, it was once again struck by a devastating storm.

Levees along the Cosumnes River were broken on December 31 by severe rains, forcing flooding in some southern Sacramento County locations. South of Elk Grove, the Cosumnes River inundated the road. Numerous individuals were rescued when their vehicles were trapped on Highway 99.

Atmospheric rivers can cause a lot of rainfall and flooding. Bomb cyclones need a mixture of high and low temperatures, fluctuating air pressure, and moisture in the air, often resulting in strong winds and severe storms.

In the last week, California state has experienced two overlapping weather phenomena – one was an atmospheric river, where dense moisture in the atmosphere flows in from the ocean, and another is a bomb cyclone, a heavy storm system with a rapid drop in pressure that forms an explosive effect.

History of Sacramento Floods

1850: In January 1850 Sacramento experienced its first major flood that devastated the city., and another one in 1852. It became obvious that drastic steps would need to be taken if the city was to be saved from such situations.

1862: From December 1861-January 1862, the city faced the largest floods in history. It was so bad that the state government had to relocate from the capital Sacramento to San Francisco for 18 months.

1986: In February, the city faced an unprecedented amount of rain in northern California. The overwhelming flood situation tore the bridges apart from their base and crashed through levees. This Sacramento flood can be termed as deadly as it resulted in life loss and property damage.

1995: In 1995, heavy downpours caused widespread localized flooding, in particular affecting areas like Arcade Creek, Florin, Morrison, Union, and Dry Creeks.

1997: Several tropical storms repeatedly hit the valley, causing the Cosumnes River to outburst through levees in many places.

2006: The 2005-2006 occurrence was named the “New Year’s Eve Storm” because the downpour caused widespread and localized flooding during the last days of New Year’s Eve 2005 through the initial few days of 2006. This storm did not have great magnitude, but it alerted the people about the situation so that they could prepare for the future.

2017: Sacramento County was once again hit by a series of atmospheric rivers, rains, and storms throughout January.  Water from the storm severely affected Many areas of Sacramento County, including Point Pleasant, Rio Linda, Glanville tract, Wilton, and the southern parts of the County.

2022-2023: In a repeated pattern as in the past, the city was hit by a storm on New Year’s Eve of 2022.

Many people across Northern California are dealing with power outages after heavy rain and wild winds caused damages on roadways but luckily spared the area from widespread devastation. An evacuation warning was issued due to possible flooding for people living in these localities.

On January 4, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom declared California is in a state of emergency. President Joe Biden declared an emergency in 17 California countries on January 9, 2023. This will bring more federal assistance for people in local and rural areas.

The wild storm brought torrential rains, strong winds, and flooding to the state have caused life losses. Several people have evacuated their homes, while millions more are informed of severe weather warnings. Due to the city’s historical vulnerability to floods, it is surrounded and protected by dams and levees, but they too fail to protect at times when the water pressure is too much due to over-flooding. Most of the area of Yolo is evacuated and the Yolo bypass is used during adverse times to channel excess flood water.

Heavy rainfall is forecasted to last in the state throughout the week, with some regions at risk of dangerous landslides and mudslides. The National Weather Service (NWS) has stated that it is "the most impressive storm since January 2005".

California has had a decades-long drought in the region and in spite of that is being inundated with territorial rains and storms. Due to its very dry land, it has become difficult for the soil to absorb water, thus contributing further to flooding. However, this heavy downpour is not going to improve the drought condition of the state. It might take several years of consecutive wet weather for such an impact to happen.

Major flood management facilities are the Cache Creek, Settling Basin, Willow Slough Weir, Knights Landing Ridge Cut,  Fremont Weir, Yolo Bypass, and Sacramento Weir Bypass. Yolo Bypass provides system-wide flood benefits while simultaneously implementing significant habitat conservation, water supply, and agricultural sustainability improvements.

Due to the proximity of the Sacramento River and its tributaries, the Region’s lands, people, livestock, infrastructure, and environment is all at flood risk. Levees decrease the frequency of flooding in areas along these rivers. From the time of their construction, these levees and other associated facilities have immensely helped provide people safety and have also helped prevent billions of dollars of damages related to these floods that would have happened if the levees were not placed there. However, parts and portions of these levees have leaked occasionally, resulting in very significant property damage and loss of life. Recent developments near the levees have more people and property in regions that are prone to flood hazards, which leads to higher flood risk due to greater consequences that would result if a flood occurred. Also, these levees have greatly restricted the river channel and hindered the ability of natural river courses to occur.

Flood hazards, loads, exposure, and repercussions all play a role in flood risk. The hydrology, hydraulics, levee performance (or fragility) curves, as well as the financial and life safety ramifications, are all components of flood hazard, loading, exposure, and repercussions. There is always a residual probability of failure, no matter how skillfully flood facilities are designed, built, maintained, and managed. Flooding is still possible despite improvements to existing flood control measures.

Since at least the middle of the 1800s, the Sacramento River Basin has experienced catastrophic floods that have submerged farms, businesses, and entire communities. The biggest flood incidents listed below started in 1955, after which a significant amount of flood management infrastructure was finished.

The Central Valley has undergone extensive development during the past century to accommodate an expanding population. A thriving agricultural sector, many cities, and numerous small settlements are supported and protected by a sophisticated water supply and flood risk management system.

In the wake of the February 1986 disaster, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) was established as a Joint Powers Agency in October 1989 by the SAFCA Act. SAFCA's flood control system upgrades are planned, permitted, developed, constructed, and operated to a considerable part under Federal and State authorizations and funding, as well as a framework of Federal and State laws. The Federal government and local governments usually split the cost of improving the flood management system.

Wilton and several areas of south Sacramento County experienced floods when the Cosumnes River rose to its greatest point ever. If Wilton residents haven't already evacuated, they were advised to stay put. The impending potential of a levee breakdown prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood warning late Saturday, advising locals near the Cosumnes River at Cosumnes Road and Wilton Road to "seek higher ground immediately."

Levee damage along the Cosumnes River caused SR 99 to flood. In Wilton, evacuations were mandated. Rescuers had to free a number of persons who were imprisoned in their vehicles. Road floods claimed the lives of three persons. Private property was found to be the cause of the levee failures. Trees were uprooted by wind gusts of more than 60 mph (97 km/h), which also led to severe power disruptions that affected more than 500,000 SMUD customers. Due to the strong gusts, two persons were killed when trees fell on them.

This is due to an atmospheric river that started on December 31, 2022, which had a substantial impact on traffic, raised stream and river levels, and caused flooding in Wilton. Although atmospheric rivers may sound like something out of a travelogue, they actually inflict significant harm. Long currents that flow in the sky like rivers do on the ground arise when water evaporates into the air and is carried by the wind. Both mountain snow and heavy rainfall may result from them. Part of the reason for California's severe rains is due to atmospheric rivers. Once in the air, winds quickly transport the vapor onward, where it condenses and falls as rain or snow if it is raised by a front or crosses mountains. It frequently sends rain to California and other western states, especially during the colder months of winter.

Who are we?

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