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Hey, thanks for getting involved in the discussion! I agree with so much of what you’ve written, e.g., the way drought hampers people’s ability to absorb this threat, and the fact that “heading for the hills” just puts you in the way of landslides, mudslides, washed out bridges, etc. My family was on a ski trip, staying near Kirkwood, in late December 1996 when that big warm storm hit a big snowpack and it was absolute havoc getting back to the Bay Area— took 12 hours because we had to go east to 395 to get to 80, which was a parking lot. I can’t imagine that an ARkStorm scenario would look any better than that in the Sierra— and it would probably be worse. If you’re in Sac, I think you just have to head for Reno and get there in advance of the weather. I remember that Nevada looked like a lake, but I don’t remember that Reno fared very badly— and it’s better than going to SF, since then you’d just be stuck with a bunch of people dealing with their own disaster and a flooded Central Valley between them and the rest of the world. I mean, as you said, there will be advance notice, you just have to know when to leave so you’re not trying to get out when 80 is a parking lot and it’s already raining. My husband and I have been talking about it and we think we should just pick up my mom in SF and then head to Oregon on 101. I wouldn’t want to be on that road in a storm like that, but like you say, we’d have notice, and the traffic would likely not be as bad as on I-5. (Plus, I wouldn’t want to get in the way of people trying to flee the valley.)  You’ve also spoken to two of my preliminary “when to leave” criteria: El Niño year and a forecast of multiple consecutive ARs. To that I would add normal-to-high snowpack in the Sierra (gotta be something for the rain to melt, right?) and a low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska (though it sounds like we should be less confident in this as a factor given how the researchers simulated the event in ARkStorm 2.0?). So that’s where I’m at right now, but I haven’t read the whole article carefully (so much of my job is reading scientific papers that don’t interest me; I have quite a limited tolerance for doing so recreationally). Glad your summer hasn’t been too bad so far. I used to live in Sac and I loved it, but summer was really rough. I grew up inside a fog bank so I really don’t do well with feeling the sun on my (pale, pale) skin. 😀

We’ve used this site before, and it looked then (and appears now) like the high res maps aren’t available yet (and will be for paid subscribers only), at least in our area— were you able to find them for your area? The closest I can get is super zoomed out (e.g., the whole SF Bay Area). I’m also not sure the data incorporates the possibility of an ARkSTORM-style event, which itself is a conservative estimate (since they had to simulate the event by basically combining a past NorCal and past SoCal storm, which is not really the same or as big as what happened in 1862). The discussion of the First Street Foundation Flood Model here implies that they do make efforts to take historic events for which there aren’t good data into account, but it’s hard to know if they did that for any one historic event in any one location. (The technical report provides more info., on p. 45, but I think I would have to go back to school to really understand all that.) My assumption here is that this is all going to shake out the way the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake tsunami modeling did— they needed a few iterations of modeling after the threat was identified to get really good information out there in formats that the public could actually use— and we’re just too close to the “threat identification” point to have those tools. I’m glad things like this are starting to crop up, though, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from using a site like this, I just suspect it underestimates flood risk, at least in CA. If you or anyone else can tell otherwise, it would be great to hear further thoughts.

Fantastic advice— thank you! Leave it to someone from the Sac Valley to have done their homework on this scenario. This is a little embarrassing, but I actually thought you couldn’t get FEMA flood insurance unless you were in an area that FEMA mapped as high-risk. If we could get cheap flood insurance, that would give us a lot of peace of mind. I also like your description of the “narrow band” that minimizes exposure to both flood and fire. That was definitely how I was thinking when we bought our house, and I think we threaded the needle pretty well— we’re neither up in the hills nor particularly low-lying. However, the neighborhood drains poorly and the house is on a slab. I wouldn’t be very concerned about flooding if it weren’t for that. I don’t think we’d be ten feet deep in a megaflood— I don’t even think we’d get three feet in that scenario— but 4-5 inches? Sure. And that would be enough to cause a serious, costly mess. Sounds like you did it right, too, if you’re in the valley but 100′ above Sac River elevation. That sounds promising. I was struck by maps in the Mother Jones article that show how quickly you get out of the danger zone just going east from Sac— Rancho Cordova and Carmichael look just fine. Will check out your app rec and the USGS site. The plain-language description of factors to look out for probably saved me having to read the whole paper, too, so extra thank you!

I haven’t lived in CA in a few years, so my memory is pretty fuzzy, but in the ’10s, some winter storms generated huge buzz— enough that memes were made mocking the disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality. It wasn’t so much a one-off mistake as a pattern of storms that were smaller than everyone had seemed to expect based on the advance reporting. I think it was the convergence of 24-hour weather news culture sort of spilling over into mainstream weather reporting (i.e., weather reports becoming entertainment), the rise of the term “atmospheric river”, and— maybe most importantly— the fact that we were in a huge drought and perhaps everyone (media, local gov, regular folks) was kind of eager for some giant deluge that might signal the end of it. Basically, my observation is that when I lived in CA, there was one way that media and local government behaved when a big, wet storm was coming— regardless of whether it was just the biggest one we’d had in a while (but not very big, strictly speaking) or something with much more potential to cause harm. It’s not like there is a numeric rating system for storm severity like there is for hurricanes. I don’t necessarily think that we need one… but I do wonder how clear it’s going to be when a Really Big storm comes, given that ANY storm kinda gets treated like a major event.  Does that clarify what I meant?

Thanks so much for this. We’re moving back to the house we own in the fall. Drainage is a major issue there and we don’t have sumps under the house or even a proper crawlspace, so it would be very hard to install one where we actually want it (also, the foundation is really weirdly shaped due to a really stupid addition on the house, making things even more complicated). So, along with several other repairs, we jury-rigged a sump in a pit next to the house that was left over from a water line repair before we bought the place, but plan to revisit that setup and install at least one more before this winter. We definitely have a garden hose hooked up to the sump (which we bought at one of those Habitat For Humanity Re-Stores on the cheap), so clearly we have room to improve. (If you’re getting the impression that the house is a fixer… accurate.) On the bright side, we replaced the roof in 2019 and upgraded the roof drainage (gutters and downspouts) relative to what we have before. Then we ran tubing from the downspouts to the part of the yard that actually drains well, and cut a wider drain in the cement in front of the garage. The tenants haven’t reported the kinds of problems we had in Winter 2018-2019 while we’ve been gone. After three years in the PNW worrying about a subduction zone earthquake that could kill all utilities for months, I feel like we are going to be a bit overprepped for our specific location within California, but the area where we will have work to do is drainage improvements and flood prevention. Fortunately, we’re not in a flood hazard zone per se— i.e., no flood risk per FEMA, not in a floodplain, etc., but I don’t really trust those given the pace of climate change. A warmer atmosphere means more precip gets stored in the sky/clouds and more intense rainfall, so mere drainage problems in the neighborhood are worrisome even if there isn’t a lake, lagoon, or river nearby to back up into our neighborhood (and the nearest streams are both a safe distance away and natural, with vegetated buffers and lots of space for infiltration). We had one storm in 2018-2019 where it looked like the tropics, it was coming down so intensely. The thing that really freaked us out, though, was when the neighborhood playground was rebuilt: We walked over there with the dog each evening to see the construction and the drainage system they put in beneath it was the most intense such thing I’ve ever seen, by a significant margin. The pipes were so enormous that my husband and I could have gotten in side-by-side, easily. What does it say that local gov thought this was necessary for a playground?? When we move back, my husband and I will be spending time with your post and all the detailed replies on this page. Hope the TP community keeps the latter coming! 

Liz’s post below reminded me that a big reason I signed off on the purchase (and basically, I just told my husband, “I don’t have the bandwidth to go out there and really grok the details of this with you right now, but if you want to pursue it, you have my blessing”) was when we realized that we didn’t actually have to build on the land immediately. That meant we didn’t have to worry about making sure the house was secure or that we could find long- or short-term renters (and, also, that we aren’t limited to building what we can afford in the near term… we can wait, save up, and build something better in 20 years). A second reason I green-lighted it is that the location has relatively good access to medical services for a rural area. It’s within 10 miles of a hospital with emergency service and an EMS air base, with a regional hospital (Level 2) within an hour’s drive and a Level 1 within helicopter range of the nearby air base. If I were starting from a blank slate like you (i.e., no friends making a specific location more attractive), I’d look up the trauma center levels for each hospital in the state where I was looking to purchase land (info usually available on state health department websites) and the air base locations for EMS air service and try to optimize for proximity to higher levels of care given my other constraints. If you want to live in a rural place, you’re just not going to be near a Level 1 trauma center, and but that doesn’t mean you can’t be more or less close to an ER, or an airbase for a regional air EMS service, or in a place where you can, say, drive to a specialist and back in a day without having to stay the night away from home. 

Hey Kira, Resoling is not a problem— though admittedly I’ve only had to do it on the brown leather boots, which are probably the most straightforward of my leather shoes. They’re incredibly versatile, and the flip side of that is that they get the most wear. I think I’m on the 4th set of soles in 10+ years. And yes, cobblers are still a thing (!), and they do the resoling. In my experience they’re harder to find outside of big cities (or small cities with state capitals— lots of leather shoes in the legislature). My mom took her dress shoes to the cobbler when I was growing up, so I’m not worried about the more frivolous pairs when the time comes. And yeah, reusable period products aren’t totally the most fun thing in the world. The cup was NOT fun to learn. There was a stretch when I would go pee and my friends would come knock on the restroom door to check on me because it had been 20 minutes (of me trying to get the cup back in, i.e.). Also shot blood all over my now-husband’s bathroom wall one time. But in the end, feels worth it (though fingers crossed my PFAS uptake through the reproductive organs hasn’t been catastrophic… do bookmark the resources Renata recommended so that if you do decide to try reusable underwear, you don’t spend bank on the wrong product like I did). Sounds like you have a healthy attitude re: digital hygiene. We could all drive ourselves crazy with this stuff, but unless you’re in tech and getting compensated to have expertise that’s at least somewhat related to all this, it’s a huge burden to do everything and do it right, so I’m down with doing what I can and not making the perfect the enemy of the good. And totally get that you basically can’t be a university student (or teacher) without getting hauled into a dependent relationship with the Google suite against your will. My husband’s strategy has been to give up on Google (because it’s hopeless) but keep Apple and Amazon out of his business, so at least he’s only exposing his data to one of the big three. Too late for me— I’m stuck too hard to both Google and Apple. But, I am trying to ween off Amazon, so there’s that. Again, great thread!


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Hey, thanks for getting involved in the discussion! I agree with so much of what you’ve written, e.g., the way drought hampers people’s ability to absorb this threat, and the fact that “heading for the hills” just puts you in the way of landslides, mudslides, washed out bridges, etc. My family was on a ski trip, staying near Kirkwood, in late December 1996 when that big warm storm hit a big snowpack and it was absolute havoc getting back to the Bay Area— took 12 hours because we had to go east to 395 to get to 80, which was a parking lot. I can’t imagine that an ARkStorm scenario would look any better than that in the Sierra— and it would probably be worse. If you’re in Sac, I think you just have to head for Reno and get there in advance of the weather. I remember that Nevada looked like a lake, but I don’t remember that Reno fared very badly— and it’s better than going to SF, since then you’d just be stuck with a bunch of people dealing with their own disaster and a flooded Central Valley between them and the rest of the world. I mean, as you said, there will be advance notice, you just have to know when to leave so you’re not trying to get out when 80 is a parking lot and it’s already raining. My husband and I have been talking about it and we think we should just pick up my mom in SF and then head to Oregon on 101. I wouldn’t want to be on that road in a storm like that, but like you say, we’d have notice, and the traffic would likely not be as bad as on I-5. (Plus, I wouldn’t want to get in the way of people trying to flee the valley.)  You’ve also spoken to two of my preliminary “when to leave” criteria: El Niño year and a forecast of multiple consecutive ARs. To that I would add normal-to-high snowpack in the Sierra (gotta be something for the rain to melt, right?) and a low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska (though it sounds like we should be less confident in this as a factor given how the researchers simulated the event in ARkStorm 2.0?). So that’s where I’m at right now, but I haven’t read the whole article carefully (so much of my job is reading scientific papers that don’t interest me; I have quite a limited tolerance for doing so recreationally). Glad your summer hasn’t been too bad so far. I used to live in Sac and I loved it, but summer was really rough. I grew up inside a fog bank so I really don’t do well with feeling the sun on my (pale, pale) skin. 😀

We’ve used this site before, and it looked then (and appears now) like the high res maps aren’t available yet (and will be for paid subscribers only), at least in our area— were you able to find them for your area? The closest I can get is super zoomed out (e.g., the whole SF Bay Area). I’m also not sure the data incorporates the possibility of an ARkSTORM-style event, which itself is a conservative estimate (since they had to simulate the event by basically combining a past NorCal and past SoCal storm, which is not really the same or as big as what happened in 1862). The discussion of the First Street Foundation Flood Model here implies that they do make efforts to take historic events for which there aren’t good data into account, but it’s hard to know if they did that for any one historic event in any one location. (The technical report provides more info., on p. 45, but I think I would have to go back to school to really understand all that.) My assumption here is that this is all going to shake out the way the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake tsunami modeling did— they needed a few iterations of modeling after the threat was identified to get really good information out there in formats that the public could actually use— and we’re just too close to the “threat identification” point to have those tools. I’m glad things like this are starting to crop up, though, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from using a site like this, I just suspect it underestimates flood risk, at least in CA. If you or anyone else can tell otherwise, it would be great to hear further thoughts.

Fantastic advice— thank you! Leave it to someone from the Sac Valley to have done their homework on this scenario. This is a little embarrassing, but I actually thought you couldn’t get FEMA flood insurance unless you were in an area that FEMA mapped as high-risk. If we could get cheap flood insurance, that would give us a lot of peace of mind. I also like your description of the “narrow band” that minimizes exposure to both flood and fire. That was definitely how I was thinking when we bought our house, and I think we threaded the needle pretty well— we’re neither up in the hills nor particularly low-lying. However, the neighborhood drains poorly and the house is on a slab. I wouldn’t be very concerned about flooding if it weren’t for that. I don’t think we’d be ten feet deep in a megaflood— I don’t even think we’d get three feet in that scenario— but 4-5 inches? Sure. And that would be enough to cause a serious, costly mess. Sounds like you did it right, too, if you’re in the valley but 100′ above Sac River elevation. That sounds promising. I was struck by maps in the Mother Jones article that show how quickly you get out of the danger zone just going east from Sac— Rancho Cordova and Carmichael look just fine. Will check out your app rec and the USGS site. The plain-language description of factors to look out for probably saved me having to read the whole paper, too, so extra thank you!

I haven’t lived in CA in a few years, so my memory is pretty fuzzy, but in the ’10s, some winter storms generated huge buzz— enough that memes were made mocking the disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality. It wasn’t so much a one-off mistake as a pattern of storms that were smaller than everyone had seemed to expect based on the advance reporting. I think it was the convergence of 24-hour weather news culture sort of spilling over into mainstream weather reporting (i.e., weather reports becoming entertainment), the rise of the term “atmospheric river”, and— maybe most importantly— the fact that we were in a huge drought and perhaps everyone (media, local gov, regular folks) was kind of eager for some giant deluge that might signal the end of it. Basically, my observation is that when I lived in CA, there was one way that media and local government behaved when a big, wet storm was coming— regardless of whether it was just the biggest one we’d had in a while (but not very big, strictly speaking) or something with much more potential to cause harm. It’s not like there is a numeric rating system for storm severity like there is for hurricanes. I don’t necessarily think that we need one… but I do wonder how clear it’s going to be when a Really Big storm comes, given that ANY storm kinda gets treated like a major event.  Does that clarify what I meant?

Thanks so much for this. We’re moving back to the house we own in the fall. Drainage is a major issue there and we don’t have sumps under the house or even a proper crawlspace, so it would be very hard to install one where we actually want it (also, the foundation is really weirdly shaped due to a really stupid addition on the house, making things even more complicated). So, along with several other repairs, we jury-rigged a sump in a pit next to the house that was left over from a water line repair before we bought the place, but plan to revisit that setup and install at least one more before this winter. We definitely have a garden hose hooked up to the sump (which we bought at one of those Habitat For Humanity Re-Stores on the cheap), so clearly we have room to improve. (If you’re getting the impression that the house is a fixer… accurate.) On the bright side, we replaced the roof in 2019 and upgraded the roof drainage (gutters and downspouts) relative to what we have before. Then we ran tubing from the downspouts to the part of the yard that actually drains well, and cut a wider drain in the cement in front of the garage. The tenants haven’t reported the kinds of problems we had in Winter 2018-2019 while we’ve been gone. After three years in the PNW worrying about a subduction zone earthquake that could kill all utilities for months, I feel like we are going to be a bit overprepped for our specific location within California, but the area where we will have work to do is drainage improvements and flood prevention. Fortunately, we’re not in a flood hazard zone per se— i.e., no flood risk per FEMA, not in a floodplain, etc., but I don’t really trust those given the pace of climate change. A warmer atmosphere means more precip gets stored in the sky/clouds and more intense rainfall, so mere drainage problems in the neighborhood are worrisome even if there isn’t a lake, lagoon, or river nearby to back up into our neighborhood (and the nearest streams are both a safe distance away and natural, with vegetated buffers and lots of space for infiltration). We had one storm in 2018-2019 where it looked like the tropics, it was coming down so intensely. The thing that really freaked us out, though, was when the neighborhood playground was rebuilt: We walked over there with the dog each evening to see the construction and the drainage system they put in beneath it was the most intense such thing I’ve ever seen, by a significant margin. The pipes were so enormous that my husband and I could have gotten in side-by-side, easily. What does it say that local gov thought this was necessary for a playground?? When we move back, my husband and I will be spending time with your post and all the detailed replies on this page. Hope the TP community keeps the latter coming! 

Liz’s post below reminded me that a big reason I signed off on the purchase (and basically, I just told my husband, “I don’t have the bandwidth to go out there and really grok the details of this with you right now, but if you want to pursue it, you have my blessing”) was when we realized that we didn’t actually have to build on the land immediately. That meant we didn’t have to worry about making sure the house was secure or that we could find long- or short-term renters (and, also, that we aren’t limited to building what we can afford in the near term… we can wait, save up, and build something better in 20 years). A second reason I green-lighted it is that the location has relatively good access to medical services for a rural area. It’s within 10 miles of a hospital with emergency service and an EMS air base, with a regional hospital (Level 2) within an hour’s drive and a Level 1 within helicopter range of the nearby air base. If I were starting from a blank slate like you (i.e., no friends making a specific location more attractive), I’d look up the trauma center levels for each hospital in the state where I was looking to purchase land (info usually available on state health department websites) and the air base locations for EMS air service and try to optimize for proximity to higher levels of care given my other constraints. If you want to live in a rural place, you’re just not going to be near a Level 1 trauma center, and but that doesn’t mean you can’t be more or less close to an ER, or an airbase for a regional air EMS service, or in a place where you can, say, drive to a specialist and back in a day without having to stay the night away from home. 

Hey Kira, Resoling is not a problem— though admittedly I’ve only had to do it on the brown leather boots, which are probably the most straightforward of my leather shoes. They’re incredibly versatile, and the flip side of that is that they get the most wear. I think I’m on the 4th set of soles in 10+ years. And yes, cobblers are still a thing (!), and they do the resoling. In my experience they’re harder to find outside of big cities (or small cities with state capitals— lots of leather shoes in the legislature). My mom took her dress shoes to the cobbler when I was growing up, so I’m not worried about the more frivolous pairs when the time comes. And yeah, reusable period products aren’t totally the most fun thing in the world. The cup was NOT fun to learn. There was a stretch when I would go pee and my friends would come knock on the restroom door to check on me because it had been 20 minutes (of me trying to get the cup back in, i.e.). Also shot blood all over my now-husband’s bathroom wall one time. But in the end, feels worth it (though fingers crossed my PFAS uptake through the reproductive organs hasn’t been catastrophic… do bookmark the resources Renata recommended so that if you do decide to try reusable underwear, you don’t spend bank on the wrong product like I did). Sounds like you have a healthy attitude re: digital hygiene. We could all drive ourselves crazy with this stuff, but unless you’re in tech and getting compensated to have expertise that’s at least somewhat related to all this, it’s a huge burden to do everything and do it right, so I’m down with doing what I can and not making the perfect the enemy of the good. And totally get that you basically can’t be a university student (or teacher) without getting hauled into a dependent relationship with the Google suite against your will. My husband’s strategy has been to give up on Google (because it’s hopeless) but keep Apple and Amazon out of his business, so at least he’s only exposing his data to one of the big three. Too late for me— I’m stuck too hard to both Google and Apple. But, I am trying to ween off Amazon, so there’s that. Again, great thread!


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