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  • Ellie Skromme

Historical Flooding and its Impact on Agriculture

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

As we currently know, extreme weather has hit Monterey County causing extreme flooding and leading to a drastic effect on agriculture. However, this is not the first time Monterey County has experienced this amount of rain.

In March 1911, a storm hit Monterey County leading to more than 2,000 acres of valuable farmland being destroyed. Alongside, in Spreckels, barns and outbuildings and farmhouses were underwater and tops of a few remained. Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions everything that was not securely anchored was swept away.

Historic flooding in 1911 Monterey County, California. Photo courtesy of Monterey County Historical Society

In January 1966, there was another extreme flood in the Salinas River that caused extreme damage, mostly to agricultural crops. Over 32,000 acres were inundated which caused an estimated loss of $6,572,000. Many of the cities in the county experienced flooding and damage, more specifically the rural areas and agricultural production.

A couple years later, in 1969, Monterey County experienced perhaps the “most severe flood” ever recorded. During this year there were two distinct floods, one towards the end of January and one at the end of February. These two floodings caused the Monterey country to be declared a disaster area. The flood led to a $3,755,000 loss in agriculture.

Hwy 68 Salinas River flooding 1969 Photo courtesy of the Monterey Herald

In 1978, flooding occurred again in many of the areas of Monterey County. The extreme rain left many Salinas Valley farmers with an estimated $20,000,000 in flood damages. Most of the damages occurred along the banks of the Salinas River from San Ardo out to the sea. It was concluded that more than 20,000 of the valleys 200,000 irrigated acres of land were flooded with water from the Salinas River and more than 1,000 acres of the valley's farmland was flooded beyond agricultural use.

Apart from the recent flooding we’ve encountered these past few months, the last time Monterey County experienced a flood was in February 1998. In February 1998, a winter storm called “El Niño" hit many parts of California including Monterey County. The storm caused significant damage leading to a loss of over $38 million with $7 million in agricultural losses and approximately 29,000 in damaged acres.

Now as of March 2023 we’ve encountered extreme flooding that has greatly effected agriculture. According to the Monterey County Farm Bureau, 25,000 acres of agricultural land has been flooded leading to an estimated damage of between $40 million and $50 million. Apart from agricultural damages, the Monterey County leaders have reported a rough estimate of $30 million in damage to county roads, bridges and other infrastructure, however those numbers are expected to rise as more water is yet to come.

2023 flooding in Monterey County, photo courtesy of the New York Times

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