SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Our record-breaker of a super soaker didn't break the backbone of Sacramento's storm system. The rain was non-stop. But as the atmospheric river came roaring through, it's what happened before the storm that made all the difference.
It was a storm of unprecedented magnitude.
"It just never stopped raining," said Dustin Romero, a Natomas homeowner.
"We've never experienced that rainfall in a 24 hour period in Sacramento before...ever," said Jeff harris Chairman of the Sacramento Flood Control Agency.
So why didn't Sacramento see severe flooding?
"We're just too early in the season. Reservoirs are still low, we had plenty of capacity," said Tyler Stalker with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
But it's storming like this that poses the biggest flood risk.
"If it were in January into the springtime, this could be the worst-case scenario," said Stalker.
All that water has to go somewhere. A Natomas pumping station is one protection for flooding, diverting 160,000 gallons a minute away from neighborhoods and into the Sacramento River.
So far, $2 billion is being spent on improving levees and other flood control projects.
"When you think about a catastrophic flood in our city, the cost would exceed billions of dollars, it would bring the city to its knees," said Harris.
But Sacramento has still not reached its goal of 200-year flood protection. That impacts projects like the new California Northstate University hospital at the Natomas arena site.
California Northstate University hospital (credit: City of Sacramento)
Plans of the hospital show two wings elevated 20 feet off the ground because all essential medical facilities have to be built above the floodplain.
"The Natomas basin is definitely a big flood risk," said Harris.
That's why more protection efforts are underway. The next major project will expand the Sacramento Weir to divert floodwater during times of high river runoff. It's all in an effort to keep Sacramento safe when the next big storm hits.
It's really nice to see that they're doing stuff to protect the levees and protect this area," said Romero.
City officials hope to have 200-year flood protection completed in the next decade.
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