California is situated on he deadly San Andreas and Hayward Faults, and experts believe it is only a matter of time before the ‘big one’ hits. In 2008, a report from the US Geological Survey said that a 7.8 earthquake lasting just two minutes on the southern San Andreas fault – which is 810 miles in total – would result in 1,800 deaths, 50,000 injuries, $200billion (£138bn) in damage and lengthy disruptions to the surrounding areas. However, experts warn there could be an even bigger threat to the southwestern State: mega-storms.
A team of scientists believe the next California mega-storms will be comparable with the state’s winter storms of 1861 and 1862.
These storms killed thousands of people and dumped a 300-mile-long (482-kilometre-long) lake in the middle of California.An analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who have dubbed the next storm the Atmospheric River 1,000 (ARkstorm), revealed that it could break the Whittier Narrows Dam in Los Angeles County.
This would see flooding of up to six metres in some areas of California, and would put 1.5 million people in danger.
California warning: Earthquakes NOT biggest threat – prepare for MEGA-STORMS (Image: GETTY)
ARkstorm would also cause up to $735 BILLION worth of damage, according to the report.
The storm is predicted to happen every 500 to 1000 years, and the report warns that officials need to begin preparing for it.
It said: “Responders and government managers at all levels could be encouraged to conduct risk assessments, and devise the full spectrum of exercises, to exercise ability of their plans to address a similar event.”
The Whittier Narrows Dam could break (Image: GETTY)
However, other experts warn the report could be underestimating the scenario.
Water historian and Whittier Narrows area expert David Reid told The Times: “The false sense of security included in the phrase ‘900-year flood’ combined with the promises of 20th century water infrastructure have put us in a bind.
“That’s because a mega-flood is impossible to predict. And if the water infrastructure fails, we’re in big trouble.”