(KTXL) — The Sacramento area, along with the rest of the state, endured heavy rainfall through a series of storms since late December.
Water from the American River caused Discovery Park to flood and caused the level of the Sacramento River to rise.
•Video Player Above: How the recent storms impacted California’s drought
As sunny days are ahead in the Sacramento area, where does the stormwater actually go?
Levees and pumping stations around the region help play a part in keep populated areas and roadways from flooding.
“We have lots of layers of flood protection and one of the most basic ways to describe it is that the City of Sacramento is surrounded by levees,” said City of Sacramento Department of Utilities spokesperson Carlos Eliason. “That’s because we sit at a low elevation in the Sacramento Valley and water naturally wants to find the lowest point.”
“Levees protect us from what would be seasonal flooding so we live in a flood plain and these levees protect us from that,” Eliason continued.
Pumping stations are vital tools in combating flooding, according to Eliason, as Sacramento would see “major” flooding on its streets and neighborhoods.
“We don’t rely on gravity here for the water to drain out to where it needs to go,” Eliason said. “A lot of other cities can rely on gravity, the City of Sacramento can’t because it’s surrounded by levees, so what that means is that we have pumping stations throughout the city that will pump that stormwater out of streets, neighborhoods, creeks, and streams.”
When the city receives any amount of rain, the city’s utility department has a stormwater division dedicated to monitoring pumping stations, levees, and creek levels within city limits.
“We also have staff monitoring levees, so we’re constantly the levees once the river water reaches a certain point and that’s to make sure that the levees are working correctly, they aren’t damaged so they won’t get more damaged and become more of a serious issue,” Eliason said.
City staff constantly worked long hours during the severe storms, with shifts ranging from 12 to 18 hours.
Since the atmospheric rivers started on Dec. 26, Sacramento received 8.49 inches of rain, with most of the rainfall occurring on New Year’s Eve, when 2.12 inches of rain fell. The New Year’s Eve storm led to flooding on Highway 99 and the evacuation of thousands of people near Wilton.
In a six-day span, from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31, the Sacramento area received almost half of the total — 4.15 inches of rain — according to data from the National Weather Service.
From Jan. 1 to Jan. 15, Sacramento received 4.34 inches of rainfall, vastly surpassing the dry January in 2022, when the capital city only received 0.05 of an inch of rain.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword sometimes, these storms have helped alleviate some of the droughts, but what we rather see is lighter amounts of rain over a more extended period of time versus these intense storms over a short period of time,” Eliason said.
With Sacramento seeing sunlight for the upcoming week, the city has several months left in its water year. Eliason hopes the city can get more water and precipitation to help the reservoirs fill up and ease some of the drought.
“It’s great to see the sun, we’re very relieved, I think a lot of city staff are going to get some much-earned rest, but we still want our water years to add up to make us whole at the end so that we don’t have to go into drought mode as soon as summer hits,” Eliason said.