California’s Devastating Storms Are a Glimpse of the Future – The New Yorker

by | Jan 12, 2023 | Climate Change

On the morning of January 10, 1862, Leland Stanford, the industrialist and railroad magnate who would later lend his name to Stanford University, departed his mansion, in downtown Sacramento, en route to the state capitol building, about five blocks away. Stanford was preparing to be sworn in as the eighth governor of California. He had to abandon his grand plans to travel in style, via horse-drawn carriage, however. Sacramento lay under as much as eighteen feet of river water after the region’s second major flood in as many months. Weeks of downpour had caused the levees on the American River and the Sacramento River to breach. While residents fled in droves, the Governor-elect likely travelled to the capitol via rowboat. One can imagine the oars disappearing into the brown murk as the detritus of a ruined city drifted by.By the time that Stanford had placed his hand on the Bible and floated home, the floodwaters had risen so high that he and his wife reëntered the mansion through a second-story window. “The scenes of horror . . . defy description,” a guest at Stanford’s inauguration later wrote. “Cracking, falling, floating houses; businessmen ruined in an hour; strong men struggling for life in the current of our streets. Many of all ages and both sexes clinging to h …

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