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The Sunday Read: Katie Down on the historic flood that changed California forever

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As hardy Californians, we're no strangers to natural disasters. From the time we're kids, we're trained in earthquake drills. We live with the specter of the inevitable Big One.

But it was a flood, not an earthquake, that once decimated the state. One hundred and sixty years ago, the biggest flood in modern history wiped out California: 4,000 dead, one-third of all property destroyed, a quarter of the state’s 800,000 cattle drowned or starved. California went so utterly bankrupt that its governor, Legislature and state employees didn’t draw a paycheck for 18 months. Eggs cost $3 a dozen (that’s $79 adjusted for inflation, if you thought today’s supply chain issues were bad).

And if that seems like a problem of the distant past, heed history's warning: Scientists believe we're actually overdue for another flood of biblical proportions. To read more about the deluge that destroyed California, click here.

— Katie Dowd



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