Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

June 25, 2012
1861-62 Sacramento floods provide insight into current risk

1862_FLOOD.JPGThis year's Extreme Precipitation Symposium at UC Davis will look back 150 years to the devastating winter floods of 1861-62 to try to glean lessons for understanding the climate risks this region faces today.

Among the speakers will be Sacramento City Historian Marcia Eymann who will survey the past floods starting in 1850. Geomorphologist Rene Leclerc will describe the hydrology of the Sacramento River Valley before the construction of dams and levees. And meteorologist Larry Schick will consider the implications of the 1861-62 deluge for assessing the current flood potential.

The conference relies in part on the historic work of Leon Hunsaker and Claude Curran, whose 2005 study Lake Sacramento -- Can It Happen Again? is an authoritative estimate of the extreme temperature, rainfall and snowfall conditions that produced the worst floods in recorded history.

Hunsaker, who worked as a local TV weatherman in the 1960s and 70s, now lives near Grants Pass, Ore. According to a recent profile by Cosmo Garvin in the Sacramento News & Review, the 89-year-old retired meteorologist still watches California's climate and still worries the Central Valley won't be prepared for the next Big One.

What: California Extreme Precipitation Symposium: The 1861-1862 Floods: Informing Decisions 150 Years Later
Where: Freeborn Hall, University of California, Davis
When: June 26, 7:45 am - 4:15 p.m.
Cost: $90 registration (students $45). Walk-in registrations will be accepted -- check or cash preferred.
For more info: website

PHOTO CREDIT: A scene from Jan. 10, 1862 shows flooded K St., looking east from 4th St. Center for Sacramento History

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About Sac History Happenings

California and Sacramento have a long, rich, vibrant history. And our region is blessed with an abundance of historical resources maintained by museums, libraries, archives and societies. This blog aims to alert readers to the latest developments in local/state historical education and research.

Send tips concerning upcoming exhibits, tours, lectures and meetings, as well as new books, magazine articles and online collections to the blog's contributors.

The Contributors:

Michael Dolgushkin

Michael Dolgushkin is Manuscript Librarian at the California State Library History Section. He is co-author of San Francisco's California Street Cable Cars and is a frequent contributor to the California State Library Foundation Bulletin. Contact him at

Amanda Graham

Amanda Graham is a Certified Archivist working in the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Public Library. She earned a BS in History from Southern Oregon University and a MS in Information Studies with an emphasis in archives from The University of Texas at Austin. Contact her at

Pete basofin

Pete Basofin is Director of Editorial Research at The Sacramento Bee. He previously worked at The St. Petersburg Times and Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune. Contact him at

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