Past records of peak flow ,and 3-day ,storm-runoff volume in the Kern, Tule, and Kaweah River basins in California were greatly exceeded by the floods of December 1966. Streams rose rapidly following precipitation of as much as 15 inches in a 24-hour period on December 5-6 during a strong inflow of warm moist Pacific air across central California. As heavy rain continued, extremely high peak discharges occurred at most gaging stations between 2300 hours December 5 and 1800 hours December 6.
Snowmelt was not a major cause o the floods, although some snow that had accumulated during minor November and early December storms was melted. This snowmelt was offset by snowpack accumulation at high altitudes where little runoff occurred during the storm.
This report covers the area of mast intense precipitation and runoff. Areas of central California to the north and west had severe floods, but these, in general, were not nearly as great as ,previous record floods. The terrain of the flood area described in the report ranges from ,the rolling foothills at the east edge of the flat Tulare Lake basin to the steep slopes of the Sierra Nevada where considerable area is above an altitude of 9,000 feet. This report includes discussions of the antecedent hydrology and the meteorology of the stone; a description of the floods, storage regulation, flood damage, comparison to previous floods, sedimentation, channel changes, and flood frequency; a summary of flood stages and discharges; and detailed information on stage, discharge, and reservoir contents for December 1966.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Floods of December 1966 in the Kern-Kaweah area, Kern and Tulare Counties, California; with section on Geomorphic Effects in the Kern River Basin