When it comes to atmospherics I have often been compared to a certain British Master. On Saturday last, I decided to embrace the accusation.
The Arkstorm of 1862
In late December of 1861 a major artic airborne wave trough moved inland over the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California and dropped heavy rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Following this biblical deluge, in early January of 1862, heavy snow fell in the mountains all the way down to the Central Valley. Then a series of warm rain followed, melting the snowcaps and sending water downhill at a rapid rate. There were four distinct rainy periods, starting in December of 1861, another just before Christmas and a third and four in the first weeks of January, 1862. A foot of snow, or more, covered the mountain passes to the north and then it got warm, too soon, and then it rained a warm rain and the water in the rivers became a mighty monster carrying ruin and destruction all along its course. The labor of a hundred men were swept away in a few moments time. Nine inches of rain fell in 36 hours
To paraphrase from the language of the day:
The insatiate monster took everything in its path, crushing houses and grinding them in the maw of destruction, and sweeping all the broken fragments downriver at a frightening clip. In the light of Wednesday morning, a scene of desolation extended up and down the river bottom with Iron Works, foundry and machine shops all gone.
Here's an eyewitness account:
|... I was a passenger on the old steamer Gem, from Sacramento to Red Bluff. The only way the pilot could tell where the channel of the river was, was by the cottonwood trees on each side of the river. The boat had to stop several times and take men out of the tops of trees and off the roofs of houses. In our trip up the river we met property of every description floating down—dead horses and cattle, sheep, hogs, houses, haystacks, household furniture, and everything imaginable was on its way for the ocean. Arriving at Red Bluff, there was water everywhere as far as the eye could reach, and what few bridges there had been in the country were all swept away.||”|