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A group of more than 100 scientists and experts say in a new report that California faces the risk of a massive "superstorm" that could flood a quarter of the state's homes and cause $300 billion to $400 billion in damage. Researchers point out that the potential scale of destruction in this storm scenario is four or five times the amount of damage that could be wrought by a major earthquake.
The ARkStorm Scenario is based on prehistoric geologic flood history in California, combined with with modern flood mapping and climate-change projections.
"The ARkStorm scenario is a complete picture of what that storm would do to the social and economic systems of California," says Lucy Jones, chief scientist of the USGS Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project and architect of ARkStorm.
"We think this event happens once every 100 or 200 years or so, which puts it in the same category as our big San Andreas earthquakes.
The ARkStorm is essentially two historic storms (January 1969 and February 1986) put back to back in a scientifically plausible way. The model is not an extremely extreme event."
He said historical records show California has had several storms in which 16 inches of rain fell in three days — the same amount left in the wake of hurricanes over Gulf Coast states.