The Mighty Kaweah: Rivers reach peak flow for the season

Some aerial views of the peak flows on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River on Wednesday, March 6. At about 7 a.m. that day, the water was flowing at 7,200 cubic feet per second, the highest of the season. Compare this with the December 1955 flood that had flows of an estimated 80,000 to 85,000 cfs, causing mass destruction in Three Rivers.

That season, there was already an accumulation of 10 feet of snow at 10,000 feet elevation in the Southern Sierra, and the snow level was down to 4,000 feet. On December 22, as residents were preparing for the holidays, a warm storm system brought 12 inches of rain to an elevation of 9,000 feet in 12 hours.

That warm rain on snow caused a quick meltdown. Most bridges in Three Rivers were washed away, leaving hundreds stranded along the various forks of the Kaweah and the entire town cut off from the Valley and Sequoia National Park.

There was no way in and no way out. Houses washed away, businesses were flooded, and several residents narrowly escaped death while trying to flee the flood waters or protect property. Miraculously, no one was killed during that historic event.  

—Drone footage by Ethan Paggi of SkyHigh Innovations

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