A lake that dried up 80 years ago looks set to reappear, with monster rains accumulated during California’s wet winter season flooding the state’s rivers. Although spring has now arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, America’s most populous state has had no respite: forecasters have predicted 10 more inches of rain and up to 120 inches of snow in the mountains. “Another significant event on top of everything that has happened before will cause some major problems,” meteorologist Daniel Swain wrote on Twitter.
In California’s Central Valley, authorities have issued evacuation orders for residents of communities in Tulare County, where a lake that dried up around World War II could reappear. “The prospects of increasingly severe high water in what promises to be a record season for Kings River runoff have led the Sacramento District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to announce plans to begin a rare release of water into the old bed of Tulare Lake,” reads a statement from the King’s River Conservation District (KRCD).
The releases, which reach up to 42 cubic meters per second, will begin to bring flood flows into the former lake bed in Kings County. “They are expected to continue indefinitely, USACE officials said, perhaps until sometime this summer.” At one time, Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater lake in the western United States, fed primarily by snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada. But when the area was developed for agriculture and the rivers were diverted for irrigation, the lake shrank and by the mid-20th century had become farmland.
It has flooded periodically since then, including in 1983 when the mountains were covered by a record snowfall, and 2023 promises to rival those totals. Calling it “the winter that just won’t end,” the National Weather Service (NWS) in Reno, on the eastern slope of the Sierra, said Tuesday that this year is the second snowiest season in 77 years.