Flooding in Northern California

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Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
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Flooding in Northern California

If it isn't fires, it's foods...

Once again, Sonoma County in northern California is getting a lesson in the importance of resilience.

Rains have been so persistent over the past few weeks that the Russian River finally jumped its banks and has flooded a number of towns in the area. Here's footage from ABC News (hat tip to Tom Adkins for sending this), shot from Sebastopol, aka my hometown and where the 2019 Peak Prosperity seminar will be held this April:

I spent the afternoon in Sebastopol's downtown area (called the Barlow) where the flooding was worst, talking to affected merchants and helping as I could.

Sadly, many of these are small artisan businesses that couldn't afford to carry flood insurance (word is annual premiums cost ~$200k/year). So I expect a number of them won't reopen.

Several of the social events for our April seminar are planned at establishments that have been hard hit.

For example, our farm-to-table dinner is at Zazu Kitchen, which you can see at the 45-second mark in the above video where owner John Stewart worries they may lose everything. I hugged his partner and co-owner Duskie Estes this afternoon -- who's putting on a good face, but is clearly in shock at the magnitude the cleanup effort will require.

Timo Marshall, owner of Spirit Works, whom last year's seminar attendees will remember from his excellent distillery tour, recruited me to help him set up emergency lighting for John and Duskie as the ServePro specialists arrived at their restaurant to drain the area and prep for restoration. Fortunately, his distillery avoided flooding by mere inches.

Unfortunately, the Crooked Goat, where we had our Thurs night kickoff to the seminar, didn't fare as well. It's still underwater at this time.

For those coming to the seminar, the support our event will offer the local economy will be even more appreciated this year due to this flood. We will be a very welcome part of the recovery process.

And for all of us, this should serve as a reminder that disaster by its very nature is unpredictable. All of these shopowners were caught by surprise and had little to no time to act before the floodwaters arrived.

That's why advance preparation is so critical. If you're aware of any holes in your emergency preps, use this as a nudge from the universe to attend to them now.

greendoc's picture
greendoc
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They had time to react....

When we were evacuated from our home during the Nun Canyons Fire, we spent almost every evening at the crooked goat.  My husband used to joke it was his office, as he worked down the block and literally took meetings there over beers.  I can remember marveling that the sky was blue, no hint of smoke, laughing people drinking beer while 10 miles to the east a slow moving fire was gobbling up parts of Santa Rosa and beyond.  One person's enjoyable night out is anohter persons personal tragedy unspooling.  

So now, the Crooked Goat (and Tamarind, ZaZu, Spirit works, Seismic, etc, etc) are experiencing their own misery and everything normal here. But I cannot believe how unprepared those sitting ducks were. You look at the area and all the many businesses that predated the Barlow are on significantly elevated pads: Coldwell Banker, the Veternarian, Coaches Corner, Solmetric.  They appear high and dry from the drone footage I saw.  When we got heavy rains in Jan 2017 the laguna made it up to Crooked Goats parking lot. You think they would have taken note of that and been more vigilent.  

So, why did it take till Wednesday morning for management to start installing flood barriers?

I could see by Monday afternoon from Santa Rosa that the Barlow was likely going to flood, based on the unrelenting rain and the fact the east Barlow is all in the flood plain. By Tuesday morning, those folks should have been moving goods out of harms way and getting barriers and sand bags installed. Bigger issue is why Sebastopol allowed such extensive development so close to the Laguna. OF course, the Goat cannot move their brewing equipment, and I certainly wish them the best of luck in cleaning up and rebooting.  But likely this event will happen more frequently then every 25 years going forward. 

 

richcabot's picture
richcabot
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It has to be annual

Things have to happen almost annually for people to take it seriously.  We had epic floods along the Tualatin river here in Oregon during the 90s.  Two years later people had virtually forgotten about it.  There are far more paved surfaces now with no effort spent on capturing the runoff.  The next time will be worse.

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
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Hayward Fault A Ticking Time Bomb

richcabot wrote:

Things have to happen almost annually for people to take it seriously.  We had epic floods along the Tualatin river here in Oregon during the 90s.  Two years later people had virtually forgotten about it. 

A great example of this willful amnesia is the East Bay in northern California. The Hayward fault runs right through it.

The Hayward fault is a 40 mile-long cousin of the San Andreas fault, that runs through the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, among a number of others. 

It was responsible for a massive 7.0 quake back in the 19th century and is currently identified by geologists as one of the top contenders for California's next mega-quake.

Today, 2.5 milllion people live along the Hayward fault. When it goes, the death and destruction that will ensue are going to be both instant and mind-boggling:

Old airal photos shows that for much of the 20th century, developers gave the fault some berth when constructing new buildings. But once the real estate boom in the 1970s really got going, you can see how they collectively said "Screw it, we're making too much money to care!" and started building right on the fault itself.

Famously, the Cal Berkely football stadium is built right atop the fault line. They even built the stadium as two separate halves, so that the slow creep of the fault wouldn't gradually tear the building apart over the years:

The temptation of fate and hubris on display that "It won't happen while I'm here" is epic.

Boomer41's picture
Boomer41
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Flood Insurance

"Sadly, many of these are small artisan businesses that couldn't afford to carry flood insurance (word is annual premiums cost ~$200k/year). So I expect a number of them won't reopen."

There is a reason the premiums are so high.

Snydeman's picture
Snydeman
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Support

Well, Adam, I won't have a car out there for the seminar (thinking about renting a bike, though), but if my AirBnB is close enough for me to walk to town, let me know which businesses need the most support and I'll re-direct my business thataway. I'm vegetarian, though, so no steakhouses... ;P

 

Sorry to see your home town hit so hard. Ellicott City, a town close to us, can relate.

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
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Sorry about the flooding

Adam, please give our very best to all the affected people and businesses.  Flooding and fires...both very difficult to bounce back from but of the two, flooding is the one that most often goes uninsured because the costs are so prohibitive.

In my daily searchings I came across this:

I can't remember exactly where I've seen Paul's statue before, but it was somewhere out your way...

Kman's picture
Kman
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Flooding in Sebastopol

I had a meeting to attend in Sebastopol on Wednesday night.  Getting there from here made it seem as Sebastopol was almost cut off from the rest of Sonoma.  I knew 12 was closed, so tried Occidental road as an alternative.  Many of us drove past the flooded/closed signs hoping it was just an exaggeration.  Well, Occidental road soon turned into Occidental Lake and no one had any illusions of trying to cross that.  Took several attempts to find a route in (nothing was updated in GPS).  Ended up going down to the Laguna treatment plant and taking 116 up.  What was impressive was that our meeting was well attended.  We met at the Hopmonk tavern.  Good beer at the end of the day seems to get people to go the extra distance!  Hopmonk could serve as a good venue for the PP event if the venues in the Barlow are not ready in time.

I am scratching my head at why the Barlow was not elevated like everything else.  I recall the old warehouse buildings that stood where the Barlow now is, they were elevated and were still known to flood.  The Barlow is a really nice development and wasn't done on the cheap.  Why they chose not to elevate or why the City allowed it to be built below flood area doesn't make much sense.  Feel bad for all the businesses there.  Muddy water is not kind to inventory or equipment.

Further up North, Guerneville was under 14ft of water!  

We have had fires, now floods; I will keep an eye out for Locusts.

Kman

Stabu's picture
Stabu
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Are Some States in the US Worth Living In Anymore?

Things like this make me ask a very serious question: should people in the US outright leave a few states uninhabited? I'm particularly thinking about Florida, Louisiana and California. Sure the weather is nice in all three and that's probably the biggest drawing factor behind migration to them, but all three are going to be major suffers of climate change due to a combination of (drinking) water scarcity, unbearable heat, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and sea level rise. Not that Nevada, Arizona or New Mexico will be in a much better position...

Sparky1's picture
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Adam, wishing you and your community well

Hi Adam,

'Wishing good health, safety and a speedy and full recovery for you and your NorCal community during this difficult time.  All the best from your Central Valley, Cali PP neighbor, Sparky1.  :-)

Darwin Evolved's picture
Darwin Evolved
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greendoc wrote: But I cannot
greendoc wrote:

But I cannot believe how unprepared those sitting ducks were. You look at the area and all the many businesses that predated the Barlow are on significantly elevated pads: Coldwell Banker, the Veterinarian, Coaches Corner, Solmetric.  They appear high and dry from the drone footage I saw.  When we got heavy rains in Jan 2017 the laguna made it up to Crooked Goats parking lot. You think they would have taken note of that and been more vigilant.  

I am writing from the delta of the Mississippi in Arkansas near Memphis Tennessee. In the 1927 flood, the place I am sitting was under many feet of water despite being miles from the Mississippi River. Here is a Red Cross flood map. 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/1927_LA_Flood_Map.jpg

In the aftermath, the Flood Act was passed and the government built levees were constructed in many places replacing privately built works that failed. To this day I pay taxes to support a levee district  (St Francis) that maintains the levees. In 1937 another flood cycle began and the Mississippi River at Memphis recorded the highest level ever at Memphis and the levees worked, just as they have in 1945, 1973, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1993, 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017 and again this year. We are not in the normal high water season but are already within feet of the all-time record. Where my home stands there has not been a flood since 1927 thanks to a well-designed and maintained levee.

This is the current river data for the Mississippi at Memphis. We are not in the normal flood season, but the river peaked days ago at the 4th highest level ever recorded going back well over 100 years.

https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?gage=memt1&wfo=meg

We are dry despite massive recent local rains and the rivers being very full from heavy rains from the Rockies to the Appalachians - remember, the Mississippi drains most of the continental US.

The point is that we have the means to deal with places prone to flooding by adapting to nature and building defenses. Where I live we have a large flood plain that floods between the levee and the river. It is used for agriculture and recreation- nobody has a home or a business in the flood-prone area.

I get it that people like to live near the water- I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico and now own property in Washington state (Point Roberts) within walking distance of the ocean - but we have to learn to live with nature. Like it or not, climate change is changing the rules of where we can safely put towns, homes and commercial buildings. The people in California and elsewhere will simply have to adapt as this will happen again.

Nature bats last and we are not going to strike her out.

I wish everyone safety and a quick recovery.

 

PaulJam's picture
PaulJam
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I've posted about the

I've posted about the potential for another CA Arkstorm a few years back, but just found another article on it - seems especially pertinent right now.  Projected damages of 1 Trillion $.

https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/Nearly-1-Trillion-California-Flood-Likely-Occur-Within-40-Years?cm_ven=hp-slot-4

 

Twentytrillion's picture
Twentytrillion
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Any updates Adam?

Wondering if you have any updates? Any other lessons learned in the interim? 

MGRS's picture
MGRS
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Posts: 34
Flood recovery

Adam - any updates?  A quick news search seems to show that at least some of Sebastopol is in recovery mode, which is, unfortunately, when the cameras leave but the real work begins.  How are you guys doing? 

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
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Posts: 3310
Sonoma County Flooding Update

All -

Many thanks for the concern expressed by you all for the people of Sonoma County in the wake of the floods.

And my apologies for the slow response. Been a bit frenetic dealing with the aftermath + a number of time-sensitive PP projects + travel (I'm posting this from 30,000 feet at the moment).

The waters have receded, (most) of the damage to properties and businesses has been assessed, and the repair/rebuilding efforts are now in full swing.

I recorded an interview with Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead last night (PP listeners may remember my podcast with him from two years back on sustainably-raised meats). His butcher shop is in the heart of the Barlow district in Sebastopol, so he's been right in the thick of this disaster -- both as it happened and now dealing with community stakeholders to get this commercial zone back up and running as soon as possible.

I'll post that podcast shortly. It should answer most of the questions being asked in the Comments here about how folks are faring, what's currently going on with the recovery efforts, and what generous samaritans can do to help should they be so moved.

As for the local merchants we're partnering with for our upcoming April seminar who were hard hit (Crooked Goat Brewery, Zazu Farm + Kitchen, Kosta Browne, Village Bakery -- to name a few), Peak Prosperity is committed to supporting them however we best can.

Most are hoping to be back open by the seminar. So our patronage will mean even more to them than it did before the flood.

For those not able to open in time, I'm working on other ways we can still involve them in the seminar experience. Right now, being able to count on income is extremely helpful to them in holding onto their staff during this lean time while their storefronts are closed.

All in all, as you'll hear in the interview with Adam Parks, the community is rallying nicely around those impacted. Charity, generosity, and a shared sense that we all have a vested stake in rescuing our local economy are all on display.

And thankfully, these floods came with *much* less loss of life than the previous year's fires. So, we're counting ourselves lucky in comparison.

cheers,
A

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