Flood of January 1982 in the San Francisco Bay area, California

Water-Resources Investigations Report 88-4236
By:  and 



A major winter storm originating over the Pacific Ocean moved through central California in early January 1982. As much as 16 inches of rain fell in Marin County and 25 inches in the mountains bordering Santa Cruz County. The storm of January 3-5, 1982 had a stable atmospheric structure, and the layer of moist maritime air was confined to altitudes between 50 and 700 ft; this phenomenon caused the rain to fall most heavily along the lower slopes of the coastal mountains. As a result of antecedent rainfall, streamflow in the San Francisco Bay area exceeded normal from the end of October to the end of December 1981. For most streams, the January 1982 flood was the largest since the flood of December 1955, but it was not significantly large in comparison with historic peak-flow data. Damages associated with the storm were substantial, but flooding from stream runoff was not the major problem. Greater than normal antecedent rainfall, together with the prolonged heavy rain, liquified the supersaturated soil cover and caused numerous slope failures and debris flows on steep, unstable slopes. The median recurrence interval of the 1982 peak for 66 streamflow-gaging stations in the San Francisco Bay area is 10 years; for the 1955 flood, the median recurrence interval for 16 stations is 11 years. Streams with highest unit peak runoff were in the Santa Cruz Mountains and North Bay subareas. Median recurrence intervals of flood volumes for durations of 1, 3, and 8 consecutive days during the January 1982 flood are 18, 11, and 8; these recurrence intervals are comparable to those of the December 1955 flood, which are 13 , 16, and 14 years. (USGS)

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Flood of January 1982 in the San Francisco Bay area, California
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 88-4236
DOI 10.3133/wri884236
Edition -
Year Published 1989
Language ENGLISH
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey,
Description v, 46 p. :ill., map ;28 cm.
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