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Anticipating environmental and environmental-health implications of extreme storms: ARkStorm scenario

July 22, 2015

The ARkStorm Scenario predicts that a prolonged winter storm event across California would cause extreme precipitation, flooding, winds, physical damages, and economic impacts. This study uses a literature review and geographic information system-based analysis of national and state databases to infer how and where ARkStorm could cause environmental damages, release contamination from diverse natural and anthropogenic sources, affect ecosystem and human health, and cause economic impacts from environmental-remediation, liability, and health-care costs. Examples of plausible ARkStorm environmental and health concerns include complex mixtures of contaminants such as petroleum, mercury, asbestos, persistent organic pollutants, molds, and pathogens; adverse physical and contamination impacts on riverine and coastal marine ecosystems; and increased incidences of mold-related health concerns, some vector-borne diseases, and valley fever. Coastal cities, the San Francisco Bay area, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, parts of the Central Valley, and some mountainous areas would likely be most affected. This type of screening analysis, coupled with follow-up local assessments, can help stakeholders in California and disaster-prone areas elsewhere better plan for, mitigate, and respond to future environmental disasters.