I’ve been writing about water for 10 years in one of the state’s most flood-prone cities.
And I’ve never had to write about a substantial flood.
I’ve written countless stories about planning for future floods, about the quality of our levees and the need for new flood control infrastructure.
But an actual, honest-to-goodness flood? Never seen one.
That could change this week. I hope it doesn’t. But after two back-to-back droughts dominated the past decade, it’s fascinating to see San Joaquin County emergency responders shift into flood-control mode.
I wonder: How ready are regular people?
Agricultural San Joaquin County flooded in 1997. But urban Stockton hasn’t flooded since the 1950s. Generations have passed without seeing a major flood in the city. Do people realize that there’s a river out there, and that the levee behind their house is more than just a place to walk the dog? Are they generally familiar with the risks in their neighborhoods?
We’re a long way from an urban flood, and our levees are a lot better than they used to be, which of course explains why it’s been 70 years since Stockton itself flooded.
But one consequence of flood disasters being increasingly rare may be a lack of community memory and awareness. And it’s going to happen again, eventually.
Neighborhood flood maps prepared by the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services can be found here. (Scroll down and click on the brochure links for best results.) And click here to read a 2011 USGS study about what would happen in Stockton and across California if the 1861-62 sequence of storms happened again today. Hint: Not good.