Expert: Key Parts of Sacramento’s Flood Control System are Working

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Data pix.

SACRAMENTO -- Raging creeks, swollen rivers and snow piling up in the mountains.

As predicted, this week has created the wettest weather in the region in at least a decade.

"In some areas they probably had rainfall that was on the order of once in 20 or 30 years. But overall, this event is about what it was about a decade ago," said Alan Haynes.

Haynes is the acting hydrologist in charge with the National Weather Service California Nevada River Forecast Center.

His team is part of the multi-agency effort to forecast, prepare for and manage powerful weather events.

Haynes says key parts of the region's system such as reservoirs and the Sacramento Weir are working.

"The whole system is designed for this kind of thing, and everything's really functioned well, the reservoirs captured the extra space, they had to operate the Sacramento Weir to bring the level down a little bit, but that's already part of the design," said Haynes.

But once the water flows down from the Sierra into Sacramento, things start to change.

"As the water works down into the valley it slows down because it flattens out, the flood peaks actually take longer to get to the low-lying areas as the water travels more slowly," said Haynes.

Haynes says that's part of the reason we continue to see flooding after the heaviest rain stops.

While this storm wasn't as powerful as 1997, we were more prepared.

"Our forecasting is better. Back in 1997 we couldn't see this kind of event more than probably two, three days out at the most. Now we can see a system like this coming in a week ahead of time," said Haynes.

Hayes adds technology can't always outsmart the weather.

"The system works pretty well for protecting people, but Mother Nature can be a powerful force," said Haynes.


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