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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  December 31, 2015 10:30pm-11:01pm EST

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. >> on "america tonight", a special look at the force beneath the wave. >> i felt i was in a washing machine, i was tossed and turned. >> what's the next thing you remember? >> this would be an ugly way to die. this el nino is larger than the 1991-1998. >> 20 years ago we talked about it being destructive. in california. they are asking for it. >> reporter: what will el nino bring, are we ready for it, and
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what are the signs that it's already here. sh thanks for being with us, i'm joie chen. somewhere out in beneath the waves of the california coast, somewhere out there is what experts predict will be a powerful system. it's been called godzilla el nino, and is guaranteed to have an enormous impact. not just here on the pacific coast and inland, and even across the ocean. this is an el nino that impacts weather, wildlife and wealth. we begin with michael oku. >> i ended up against a house, and a big wave came, pressed
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against my throat. i thought if my throat breaks, it would be more merciful than smothering. >> burying in a mud slide. that is how dire the situation was for ann in february 1998. the last time the u.s. was rocked. somehow, the southern californians escaped death when the home was wiped out by a massive wall of mud. >> take me back to 1997. what were you anticipating. >> we were warned that el nino was coming. none had an idea what to expect. we just figured a lot of rain. >> back then, the average californian had little understanding of el nino, or how
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el nino influenced the climate. storms are not larger, there's more of them. demrrm it's back to back like a conveyor belt of storms. >> in october 1997, there was an ominous sign as to what lay ahead. it caused flooding and deaths in and around acapulco mexico. it moved north, the first of a number of el nino stomps which battered until february. >> if we look at the winter of 1998, we had a huge february, where we had almost five times our normal rainfall that we normally get. >> more than 13 inches of rain
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doused down down los angeles in february alone. the wettest on record. at the time the skies returned. 17 lost their lives, and the state offed 5 million in damage. leguma beach was hit hard. >> it had come down and destroyed three or four homes filling the back with mud. it was clearly a life and death situation. >> you were telling us there has been a huge slide. there's mud. people trapped. we worked with the neighbours to pull neighbours out. are we took them into the house.
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the big one hit. a massive avalanche. the house and the mud and the debris. >> what were you thinking? >> i felt i was in away washing machine. eventually i ended up against a football you were swept more than 100 yards away. >> yes: what's the next thing
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you remember? >> what a terrible way to die. >> ann's neighbour was killed. over a decade later another storm would devastate the ghostal community. >> in 2010 several days of rain triggered mudslide again and flooding. many homes were damaged. the beach is now week prepared for the worse. we are trying a strike team. we are preparing the team to go out. the marine safety department is taking additional training. we'll be positioning equipment and personnel in ways that will help us responds quickly. >> needs the emergency response center, the engineer can monitor the rain. the soil saturation, and the
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city storm trains. >> so what is this place? >> this is a trainic city. >> in the stooep canyons, workers monitored the train spillage. >> what did you do? >> primarily we came in taking out the loose material, the vegetation and the growth, to be prepared to take the onslaught of water, and not glowing. >> if you don't take the debris out, the vegetation outs. what is the worst case scenario. >> it will come down and flood on to the property. >> in 2010. that's what happened. stormwater and debris surged.
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since then is city required businesses to keep the sludge down. >> what do you have. it's not behind the imagine gags. itch the one business was wiped out. they worked close for the past few weeks. it is the head of there. when the water subsided, they swept away the debris. it really does make a difference. staying dry this winter will be a change.
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according to the climatologist t rahm emanuel is larger than godzilla of 1997-1990. let's not forget, the el nino had devastating impacts over the planet. >> this wisenter's el nino plied. >> there's so much water blan t blanketing and there were wind
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speeds of 100 miles an hour. >> you can't see anything out there. it's like it's running on windows. >> scientists make no mistake about it. >> reporter: what is your biggest fear about the el nino that everyone is predicting this time around. that everyone will be overwhelmed in a way we haven't seen. i can't imagine it being worse than 2008 or 2010. it's just not knowing.
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for those that weathered the last el nino. they think it's the calm before the storm. >> the only live national news show at 11:00 eastern. >> we start with breaking news. >> let's take a closer look.
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the impact of the monster el
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nino will be felt in california, the coastal city, but will be seen inland. experts expect changes across the south and east coast. wherever you live, you'll feel it. this el nino intends to make it known to the foundations of this community nt on that here is correspondent jake ward. >> this is what 5 inches of rain in an our does to a baked hillside. this spilt over a freeway taking with it hundreds of cars and stranded passengers. that is nothing compared to if an el nino arrives. >> take the smaller event and make it rain longer. >> geologist jeff mount is an expert on the rivers and water supply. >> we are not ready for the
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large floods. >> to keep floodwaters under control. california has 13,000 miles of levies, a katrina type disaster poised to flood california. >> there are two kinds of levies, those that have failed or will. eventually your system will be overwhelmed the the question we have is this the year. the year that the system is overwhamed. >> the california delta encompasses 1,000 miles of waterways, home to thousands of people and the state capital. we went to see why so many were worried. >> we are on the highest ground. >> always. >> let's check it out. >> mike is an engineer with the california department of water resources, and spots a major levee repair going on here when he shows it to us.
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it's a fix that costs $5 to $10 million per mile. >> something of this scale, once a decade. repairs are crucial. report after report learnt of breaks in the delta. there's an area he worried about. >> i want to take you to sherman island. when there's a storm. it will have water racing over the top of the levee. >> we drive on the levies, criss-crossing bridges, farm lal and amed. we are working up to sea level. it's not clear what the problem is. you are talking about this being a ground zero.
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this is one of those point. i would not be surprised this winter to waves crashing over the levy. >> this may be a reality. >> this is not just a local problem. you have farm land, tens of thousands of acres producing fruits and vegetables that people buy across the united states. on this side you have the river. the water supply for 25 million people, northern and southern californian moves through the body of water. and it gets over the levy, salt water gets into the supply, ruining l.a., san francisco and beyond. all held back by piles of rock like there. >> diselta residents -- delta
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residents we spoke to are afraid. >> we met sara cum ecks, her home against a levy. >> if the levee breaks, i wouldn't have enough in the, anywhere near to get out, because the levee road is my way out. >> driving around here, you can't help but wonder why were people allowed to billion a floodplain close to the water? >> you are at the root of the problem. stuck with a century of bad choices. we col on ice the flute plane, taking them out. when they come. they are fast, hard, the water rises. >> as if the state doesn't have enough to worry about, a few hours south there's a cruel irony. the drought may make flooding more dangerous. why?
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well, increased groundwater drilling made the land shrink. it's called subsidence. a study suggests it's threatening the levies. we headed to dose follows. >> the ground has subsided. he scrambles down the levy. >> you see the gap. some is the aftereffects. >> the original columns no longer support the brim, the lans at literally dropped beneath it. erosion is worse. now the land has the potential to be under water. >> it created a deep hole. when a rush of water fills the hole. it has to go somewhere. somewhere. >> it will go over the top of the levees. you have vines, alfalfa, almond trees. the local school. all of that is in the way if el
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nino delivers big storms, looks at what we found. the canal is about to go over the overpass. you should look under the bridge and see air all the way to the other side. >> he told us about problems with another can am. sure enough, it is buckling and crumbling, making flooding more dangerous. >> mother nature may give a 1-2 punch. a regard drought and then an el nino. it's not just mother nature, but decades of regret of infrastructure. >> we stopped paying. why should be we shocked. we have the serve to surprise the systems have fallen down. we chose not to pay for it. the truth is that california and
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the nation will pay, one way or another. the question is whether the bill will be due that winter
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the science is there, science that shows us a monster el nino is making an impact here. researchers are able to track water temperature changes were peru, where it begi it begins, e
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central california coast. we can learn about what is happening beneath the waves from those that live there. he's only a few inches long. but this little guy is the biggest indicator of a giant el nino at work. a die off of the red crab near san diego was a surprise to scientists. unheard of further north. so unusual that the monta bay needed permission. the species has never been native to the coast. and the red grap is not the only new arriving here. >> it moves through the food chain because everything is connected. jim led the group to the aquarium, telling me that monter away began to see rare visitors.
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>> in addition to the schools of anchiefy, there's blue fin tuna. >> he wouldn't live this far north. >> normally hammer heads would be found to mexico, as the el nino waters walked northwards. >> the animals tend to be the first ones to tell us there's something different. they have better sensors than we do. >> you might say that this person was born to study el nino. a native of peru, he remembered the el nino that sent flood waters pouring towards his home. >> it followed you your whole life. >> and i followed it.
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>> today, senior scientists - stories about el nino go back hundreds of years. even the incas noticed it, before anyone mentioned climate change. >> for those people we say it's a sign of climate change? >> it's something that has been occurring repeatedly back as far as we can find orders. we don't know how it will impact. will it be stronger, weaker? >> reporter: the ocean plays host to a range of creatures, great and small. from ut tiny crabs to the predators following them north to eat them. >> it's a huge redistribution of sea life. all different types of tuna.
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the whole eco system is changing, there's two faces to el nino. >> chavez says we should try to understand the waters. like the great african desert. an el nino is like afghanistan the lines from one side to the other. except the big predators are less predictable. >> that is a great white. >> they have been spotted before. >> the attack on the see lion in full few of tourists made waves because a video went viral, sparking fears that el nino could be to blame. >> the sharks are in the bay.
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>> sean runs the research foundation. his group is one of several in the area. dedicated to monitoring and researching sharks. >> great whites are not new. the warmer waters made an impact on the shark population. >> what is new is the assemblage of juvenile. white sharks. it's no so much the population is expanding for growing, but the center of gravity is movering north. eon the water researchers are tracking the changes. >> analysts say we'll get a relatively big change. >> daphne can chronicle temperature changes and the d.n.a. of waters. each organism leading a trail for scientists to study what happened beneath the waves. >> this is a piece we have.
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some sell us environmental conditions. >> they can see the fish. >> yes, and they can count them and survey them. the canneda liesing question for scientists is what is happening with in el nino, is it a one season event or a change along the coastlines. >> they are telling you things. you are like the dr doolittle of the sea. >> in some waysiest. is it clear that there's anything to worry about. >> 20 years ago we spoke about it being destructive. that's the two faces of el nino. winners and losers, and it depends which side of the coin you are as to whether it's a good or bad thing. >> that's "america tonight"s special look at el nino. tell us what you mining at
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