Sea Level Rise Could Hurt California More than Wildfires, Earthquakes

(TNS) - In the most extensive study to date on sea level rise in California, researchers say damage by the end of the century could be far more devastating than the worst earthquakes and wildfires in state history.

A team of U.S. Geological Survey scientists concluded that even a modest amount of sea level rise — often dismissed as a creeping, slow-moving disaster — could overwhelm communities when a storm hits at the same time.

The study combines sea level rise and storms for the first time, as well as wave action, cliff erosion, beach loss and other coastal threats across California. These factors have been studied extensively but rarely together in the same model.

California Race Track Imposing New Safety, Welfare Rules for Horses

California’s Santa Anita racetrack will impose new rules to scrutinize horses training on its racetrack and add a director of equine welfare following the deaths of 21 horses since Dec. 26.

The main dirt track and turf courses were in a third day of examination Saturday in an effort to uncover what may have led to the series of catastrophic breakdowns. The racetrack remains closed indefinitely for racing.

PG&E ‘Unsafe’ Actions, ‘Dismal’ Prevention, Caused Wildfires

(TNS) — PG&E's "unsafe conduct" caused a gas explosion in San Bruno and several fatal Northern California wildfires, but a federal judge will allow PG&E to primarily focus on tree-trimming rather than be forced to launch a complete inspection of its power grid.

"The judge's actions don't really ensure the safety of the system," said Mike Danko, a Redwood City-based attorney who represents some Northern California wildfire victims. "I guess this is a first step towards safety."

Nevertheless, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, who is supervising PG&E's probation in the wake of its criminal conviction for felonies it committed before and after a deadly gas explosion in San Bruno, blamed PG&E's deficient safety efforts for causing both the San Bruno disasters and a string of lethal wildfires in Northern California in 2017 and 2018.

Commentary: With Climate Change, Who Should Prevent California Wildfires?

(TNS) — Intense mega-fires have become the “new abnormal” in California. The wildfires are out, for now. Thank you, firefighters! But the fight over who should bear the costs of future damage compensation and risk mitigation is heating up.

Citing wildfire liabilities upwards of $30 billion, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the state’s largest electric utility, recently filed for bankruptcy. Headlines hail this the first of many “climate change bankruptcies.” But climate change is only one factor. These fires would not be so big if we did not send power through thousands of miles of tinderbox forest at high-risk times. Liabilities would not be so large if fewer people lived in high fire-risk areas.

Should California Insure Against Spending too Much on Fighting Wildfires?

(TNS) - This would be a first for California: state government buying insurance to protect itself against overspending its budget.

But before you start pelting the politicians and screaming fiscal irresponsibility, know that the budget-busting would be for fighting wildfires.

That puts it in an entirely different category from, say, controversial spending to help immigrants who are here illegally, or trying to register voters at the notoriously jammed DMV.

Heavy Flooding Turns Sonoma County, Calif., Towns into Islands

(TNS) - One of the winter’s strongest storms brought flooding across Northern California’s wine country Wednesday, with no region hit harder than the town of Guerneville and the Russian River Valley, which has been inundated repeatedly over the decades.

Some 3,600 people in about two dozen communities near the river were evacuated Wednesday by the flooding, which prompted the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to declare a local emergency. Authorities warned that those who chose to stay in their homes could be stuck there for days.

How to Get Autonomous Cars to Pull Over for Police

It was still dark on a Friday morning in November when a California Highway Patrol officer started following a Tesla Model S on Route 101 between the San Francisco International Airport and Palo Alto. The gray sedan was going 70 miles per hour with a turn signal blinking, cruising past multiple exits. The officer pulled up alongside and saw the driver in a head-slumped posture. Lights and sirens failed to rouse him. The car, the officer guessed, was driving itself under the control of what Tesla calls Autopilot.

Every Tesla is equipped with hardware that the automaker says will enable its vehicles to be capable of driving themselves on entire trips, from parking space to parking space, with no input from the driver. At the moment, the company limits its cars to a system that can guide them from on-ramp to off-ramp on highways. The system is smart enough, it seems, to keep the Tesla driving safely even with a seemingly incapacitated driver, but not yet smart enough to obey police sirens and pull over.

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