Could Hurricane Harvey Happen Here?

While all our hearts go out to the people and animals suffering in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, it’s also natural to wonder whether this type of disaster could occur in our home-state of California?

According to Bill Patzert (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory oceanographer and climatologist from the California Institute of Technology), the chances are 1 in 1,000. This level of risk matches the 1 in 1000 year rating for the flooding that occurred in Houston and Beaumont, Texas:

According to Patzert, the greatest risk for tropical cyclones (Pacific ocean’s version of a hurricane) affecting California occurs this time of year (September). Powerful cyclones are most likely to form when water temperatures exceed 80 F. It can certainly be a sobering moment when one realizes that these temperatures have been recorded with increasing frequency at multiple California coastal locations during recent El Niño events.

Pacific Ocean water temperatures: Image generated by National Weather Service Environmental Modeling Center

The good news is that with the oil spill planning efforts and training that has taken place thanks to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), our Member Organizations and Affiliated Agencies, if a tropical cyclone hits California, we will be in better shape than many other states to deal with impacts to wildlife. Even now, Member Organizations such as WildCare are sending volunteers (many trained by OWCN) to help in Texas. See this link for more information about WildCare’s efforts:

Squirrel affected by Hurricane Harvey being cared for at the Wildlife Center of Texas: International Fund for Animal Welfare

While just like an oil spill, we all fervently wish that it will never happen, it is comforting to know that the OWCN, our Member Organizations and Affiliated Agencies are prepared to spring into action and relieve suffering when we are needed.


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