Gallegos has no doubts about what Megastorm means to Firebaugh.
“Too much water. Flooding for days. [A] It really risks wiping out the city,” he told NPR’s Leila Fadell.
Climate scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles say climate change will increase the frequency of these megastorms.
It used to occur on average every 100 to 200 years, but due to rising temperatures, it now occurs every 50 years.
The study’s co-authors, Xingying Huang and Daniel Swain, said that megastorms cause millions of people to be displaced by floods, disrupt major transportation, and cause nearly $1 trillion in total damage. said it is possible.
Gallegos worries that big cities, rather than his city of about 8,500 people, will become the focus of flood prevention spending before a major storm.
“Think of San Francisco or Los Angeles. Will the state and federal governments really say they’ll let Firebow get $50 million to $60 million to improve their levees, or will someone else? should I give it to?” he said. “They say, ‘What would be the impact on the state if we lost that town?’ Well, it would affect the state a lot.”
Firebaugh is an agricultural community that grows tomatoes that are processed into sauces for the restaurant industry. Farmers also grow cantaloupe. Gallegos said the loss of these businesses would have cascading effects on California’s economy.
Firebaugh residents are worried about the potential for a megastorm, especially after previous evacuations from the 1997 floods were unsuccessful.
“The city was not ready to evacuate at the time. They evacuated all the residents to the community center, but the community center was right next to the river, so the embankment was washed away,” said Gallegos. said. “So they went and sent them to neighboring cities. But those cities weren’t ready for our residents, so they had to get them back. And they put them in a warehouse just west of the city.”
Gallegos knows that state and federal officials have choices. Either pay for flood protection now, or pay a lot later so he can help Firebaugh recover from a massive storm.
“We need help, I always say to leaders, we can fix it now. It costs a lot more than it does,” he said. .
If nothing is done, he said, alternatives can’t bear to think of Gallegos.
“I think Firebow will be annihilated.”
The audio for this story was produced by Chad Campbell and edited by Simone Popperl and Adam Bearne.