While a rainstorm capable of flooding a quarter of the houses in the state of California may bring to mind Gilgamesh or Noah's Ark, it's not ancient history or legend the U.S. Geological Survey is recounting when it discusses a California superstorm.
The California superstorm prediction arises from a modeling program called ARkStorm which puts 1969 and 1986 storms back to back and concludes that such a menace would produce 10-foot waves, creating an atmospheric river with the intensity of 50 Mississippis.
The USGS says such a superstorm hitting California is not only plausible, it's predictable.
"We think this event happens once every 100 or 200 years or so, which puts it in the same category as our big San Andreas earthquakes," said USGS's Lucy Jones.
As God is said to have warned Noah and Ea to have warned Utnapishtim, Jones is warning California officials that the time to plan for the flood is now. The ARkStorm project is devoted to improving flood planning and management nationwide and is responsible for the most detailed landslide susceptibility maps ever created.
Queensland, Australia, experienced epic flooding similar to what is described in the California superstorm model in December and January, resulting in three-quarters of that state being declared a disaster zone.
Its experience might serve as a warning of what California would experience is a superstorm did materialize. From 30-foot floodwaters, to six separate river systems overflowing their banks, what happened in Queensland had a dramatic impact. 200,000 residents were evacuated. The comparison to the flood described in Genesis came readily in media accounts.
"People have lost their homes, they've lost their workplaces, they've lost their communities and tragically -- a number of Queenslanders have lost their lives," Premier Anna Bligh said in a Monday news conference.
Heavy rain in the past few days now threaten Victoria with the same fate as Queensland. 51 towns and 1,500 properties have been affected so far with the no signs of the rains abating.
Horsham Mayor Michael Ryan described the flooding as a once in 200-year event. That description sounds eerily familiar to the description of the superstorm California could face.