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Two experts on these storms have a feature story Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions of California that will be published in the January 2013 issue of Scientific American. Due to the rainstorms that are currently flooding California now, SA is making this article available for free. Here's another link to SA that also describe these storms, and the phenomenal damages and loses (in the tens of billions) that could occur. Atmospheric Rivers
narrow conveyor belt of vapor about a mile high that extends thousands of miles from out at sea and can carry as much water as 15 Mississippi Rivers. It strikes as a series of storms that arrive for days or weeks on end. Each storm can dump inches of rain or feet of snow.