Sacramento has long history of floods

12:49 AM, Dec 1, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It was the proximity of the American and Sacramento Rivers that decided John Sutter to settle in what would become Sacramento. 

But from the very beginning, floods were a problem. In fact, in 1862, Gov. Leland Stanford had to take a rowboat to his inauguration.  

In a project that would take ten years, the streets of Sacramento were raised, in some places as high as fourteen feet with boardwalks built over the gaping trenches creating what became known as "hollow sidewalks." Portions of that "underground Sacramento" still exist today.

But flooding continued, so a system of levees, weirs and bypass channels were built.  In 1944, the Folsom Dam was approved. Record floods still hit in 1951, 1956 and 1964.  

Then came 1986. 

"[It] was a benchmark year," said Pete Ghelfi with the Sacramento Flood Control Agency. "It was really the worst storm on record, the largest storm we've had in the 150 year history of Sacramento."

In 1995, flooding was so bad in Roseville that Pres. Bill Clinton came to see the damage for himself.  

The fifth record flood in 46 years hit the area over the 1997 New Year's holiday. The ingredients then were a series of warm, tropical storms similar to the storms hitting the area now, but this time there is no major snow-pack buildup to melt and add to the problems. 

Plus, improvements have been made.

"We've strengthened almost all the 26 miles of the American River levee system," said Ghelfi. "We've done a lot of work in the Natomas area."

Ghelfi also believes this series of storms will hardly cause any increases in releases from Folsom Dam.

"There is plenty of space," he said.

By Jonathan Mumm,


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