In the 1860s the West Coast experienced a biblical-scale flood – one of the worst in history.
It will happen again.
When the National Weather Service announced that Hurricane Harvey had set a new rainfall record for a tropical storm in the continental United States — with 51.88 inches at Cedar Bayou – Texas — that seemed to epitomize just how massive and unprecedented Harvey was.
In terms of sheer volume – Harvey’s rainfall could fill the Great Salt Lake twice over.
It was Houston’s third 500-year flood in three years – with the potential to register as a 1,000-year event by its conclusion.
As a single individual storm it was unmatched in our history.
Yet as dire as the figures are the flooding was far from being the worst ever experienced inside American borders.
If you think that Hurricane Harvey is as bad as a weather disaster can get – think again.
It not only can get much worse – it already has – all the way back in 1861-2 – which saw the worst flooding in history for three different states — Oregon – California and Nevada — while also impacting parts of Idaho – Utah and Arizona.
So how did the Great Flood of the Civil War years compare to Hurricane Harvey?
Although it wasn’t due to a single storm it produced more recorded precipitation in one spot — snowfall equal to 115 inches — and enough floodwater to fill one of the Great Lakes.
It turned California’s Central Valley into a giant lake – 300 miles long and 20 or more miles wide – while also submerging the Los Angeles Basin along with coastal Orange County.