Blog: California’s ‘Big Melt’ was a disaster. It could have been much worse.
California’s San Joaquin Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, and earlier this year it was thrown into chaos. First it was hit by a barrage of atmospheric rivers, which eventually dumped 57 feet of snow in parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Then, in April, that historic snowpack started to melt, and the runoff pooled in the valley’s basin. Tulare Lake, which was drained and planted more than a century ago by powerful agricultural interests, began to reappear. Residents of the valley’s small cities and towns scrambled to protect themselves, piling sandbags around their houses and building makeshift berms around their communities. Today, Tulare Lake is almost the size of Lake Tahoe, and it could take years for the waters to subside.