California drought and impending El Niño raise fears of levee breaks

23 Sep 2015   Water

California’s historic drought is in its fourth year and gloom-and-doom scenarios of its impact on everything from killing the state’s vegetation and triggering bug infestation to destroying farming jobs have been trickling in daily. Now, there is another fear: The prolonged drought may have weakened California’s more than 13,000 miles of levees, which could result in floods and affect the quality of water for millions of Californians. That’s a scary prospect for parts of the state that could get doused with torrential rain this winter, thanks to an El Niño weather front triggered by unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. And the mere mention of levee breaks evokes terrifying images of the devastation Hurricane Katrina wreaked on New Orleans 10 years ago. A Mississippi State University civil engineer sounded the alarm in a recent article in Science magazine . “If the drought ends with heavy rainfall-induced flooding, […]

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