Wednesday, May. 11, 2011

Central Valley, California, 1861-62

Date: December 1861-January 1862
Significance: Known as the storm that caused California to go bankrupt
Holmes says: These storms, also called Pineapple Express, are atmospheric rivers, where moisture from the Pacific is very efficiently pumped in over the West Coast. In this case, a tremendous amount of rain was dumped on an area of California's Central Valley that measured 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. This flood literally bankrupted the state because they were very dependent on property taxes and one-fourth of the state's taxable real estate was destroyed. It was an economic catastrophe. They even moved the capital out of Sacramento for a while. We estimate a similar storm of that magnitude in California today would cause $725 billion in damages.