Yes, the Los Angeles River is pretty full. But she’s just “doing her job.”

When newspapers around the world wanted to depict the torrential storms hitting California this week, they chose the same image: a shot of the turbulent brown Los Angeles River, which looks about to swallow the trunks of local trees whole.

Photos and videos of the river dominated the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and even The Guardian. On Monday, “LA River” topped (formerly Twitter), with more dramatic videos about rising water levels.

But as many Angelenos know, during periods of heavy rain, this is what the Los Angeles River is supposed to look like. It looks like those trees are drowning in high water? Many of them are willows, cottonwoods, and floodplain plants Spread their seeds Through floodwaters, as John Christensen of Institute of Environment and Sustainability He told me about it at UCLA.

“As long as the river doesn’t overflow its banks and flood the surrounding neighborhoods, the modern Los Angeles River is doing its job,” Christensen said.

This does not mean that flooding is not a real concern, especially after record levels of rain, or Successive storms.

Jessica Henson, a landscape architect and planner with a decade of experience working on riverfront projects, said some areas along the river appeared to be “getting close to the limit of what they can handle” and were “close to or starting to work.” . To flounder on their banks.”

But when I spoke to Henson on Monday afternoon, she noted that the peak rainfall during the storm “came and then went,” and that “most of the water levels on the river were starting to fall,” meaning the risk of more serious flooding was also decreasing. Other parts of the 51-mile canal were “only at about a third of capacity or less.”

Related: Storms subside in California after record rains, leaving landslides at risk

Some of the most dramatic video footage showed areas of the river in the Studio City neighborhood, where the water was “rising up near the top of the bank,” said Mark Hanna, a water resources engineer who has worked on Los Angeles River projects for the past 20 years. Years. He added that this is an area of ​​the river where water levels are regulated, so water is released into the canal only at the rate the river can handle.

California’s storms caused some real disasters in Los Angeles, including mudslides that damaged homes and forced evacuations, Henson said. Right now, he added, the Los Angeles River is “doing its job really well” and “keeping a lot of people safe.”

If you’re surprised to learn there’s a river in Los Angeles, you’re not alone: ​​in drought years, the river can shrink considerably, and perhaps its most famous film depiction is Chase scene from Terminator 2where the river bed is mostly made of sunny concrete.

Before the 1930s, the Los Angeles River was a wild, meandering river, one that periodically flooded and radically changed its course throughout the region. As Los Angeles, fueled by Hollywood money and real estate, turned into a megalopolis, officials decided to contain the changing course of the floods. One turning point, Christensen said, was “the wettest day ever recorded” in Los Angeles, on March 2, 1938, when a downpour caused torrential downpours. Major floods Which left more than 100 dead and caused losses estimated today at about one billion dollars.

One result of this historic flood was what he called “a decades-long effort to control the Los Angeles River,” by confining it to its current, bizarre, concrete-encased course, which often looks less like a natural river than a carefully monitored “flood.” channel”.

This “solution” to the Los Angeles River flooding remains controversial, and is certainly not pretty to look at. Even on its best days, if you put out a call to a “post-apocalyptic landscape,” the Los Angeles River gets the part.

As a flood risk reduction channel, allowing excess water to quickly flow into the Pacific Ocean, the river appears to have done its job this week. However, city planners and scientists remain concerned Storms are increasingly ferocious I will test River borders.

Los Angeles’ flood control system “can handle multiple atmospheric rivers, as long as there is some spacing between them,” said Dina O’Dell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Los Angeles Times on monday. But if atmospheric rivers rain “without interruption, it is possible to test the system.”

Christensen and Henson identified several areas of the river with sharply reduced water capacity, which could be overwhelmed by severe storms. One is in Frogtown, or Elysian Valley, a neighborhood north of downtown Los Angeles, where the river is filled with trees and plants, meaning the water flows through it more slowly. The flood-prone neighborhood gets its nickname from A large number of frogs That once filled the streets. Modest houses along this A dangerous stretch of river We are Now on the market for $1 million Or more.

Another risky area lies to the north, in some parts of the river in the San Fernando Valley, that were designed about a century ago to withstand a level of flooding expected to occur only once every 50 years, Henson said: “What we’re seeing is (now) In the valley, in places like Woodland Hills, rainfall amounts to 10 inches, which is close to the capacity of this system. But for now, river experts say, the waters are falling, and the post-flood cycle will continue.

“The trees seem to be in good shape,” Christensen said. “They’ll come out decorated with all kinds of rubbish, and it’ll look really terrible.” After that, “we’ll do a big clean-up in the spring and summer, and hopefully life will go on.”

(Tags for translation)Los Angeles River

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