Silicon Valley bracing for severe El Nino flooding; Apple, Campus 2 outside primary flood zone

in General Discussion edited November 2015
After years of crippling drought, California is now entering a powerfully wet El Ni?o weather pattern that is predicted to bring record precipitation. Flooding in coastal areas along San Francisco Bay poses risks of devastating economic impacts for the region, although Apple's principal offices centered in Cupertino should help it avoid much of the impact.

Source: San Francisco Business Times

According to a report by San Francisco Business Times, flood plain data from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency paints a dire prospect of flooding risk for many Silicon Valley firms, including Facebook and Google, both of which have their headquarters located along the South Bay shoreline, north of Highway 101.

Facebook's headquarters Menlo Park are literally surrounded by a Bay slough, while the Googleplex in Mountain View campus lies next to the waterfront Shoreline golf course, straddling Permanente Creek.

This winter's El Ni?o is expected to hit with a vengeance later this month or into December. California and Nevada have already received record levels snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, marking the wettest start to the rainy season since records began in 1893. Unusually wet weather is also causing mudslides further south in Los Angeles.

"We have about 200 square miles of land which is going to be vulnerable to flooding," reported Jeremy Lowe, senior geomorphologist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute.

Mike Mielke, the senior vice president of Environment & Energy for The Silicon Valley Leadership Group--which represents hundreds of businesses in the region--noted that "many of the companies that power the Bay Area's economy are built right along the shoreline. That means flooding from the next severe storm could devastate the region and have lasting impact on our region's-and the state's-economy"

Apple's facility planning incorporates climate change

Apple's primary facilities located inside the red flood zone about appear to be its original Newark Data Center, acquired in 2006 (located at the top center of the map, above).

However, most of Apple's active iCloud data center facilities are located in other states, including facilities in Maiden N.C., Reno, Nev., Prineville, Ore. and other locations overseas (including new sites planned for Europe).

All of those locations were built after Newark was acquired in 2006, and all have expanded rapidly. In locating, building and expanding its data centers, Apple is giving particular attention not only to sustainable energy use, but also external risks posed by natural disasters, including flooding and other issues raised by global climate change.

Apple's current primary Infinite Loop Campus, along with a series of satellite offices nearby, are located about 9 miles (or 14 km) south of the Bay waterfront, along Interstate 280. Apple's Campus 2 (including Phase 2, both now under construction, are a mile east along 280 (approximately where the "Y" in "Silicon Valley" is on the map above).

In the video above, you can just barely make out the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay on the horizon, about 9 miles to the north of Campus 2. Many other Silicon Valley firms are located directly on the waterfront. That makes both of Apple's primary campus locations much less susceptible to short term El Ni?o flooding and longer term risks associated with rising ocean levels posed by climate change.

Apple could still be aversely affected by unusually heavy rains, potentially including interruptions of its ambitious construction projects now underway. Employee transportation and other issues could also incur complications, although the company would appear to be one of the least affected, major tech companies operating in Silicon Valley by major flooding.

Outside of Cupertino, the company does have a series of smaller office locations scattered across Sunnyvale (within this same 9 miles of land), just south of Moffatt Field airport and the NASA Ames Exploration Center (labeled as "NASA" in the map above). These too would all appear to be outside of the red area at greatest risk for flooding, however.

These facilities include Sunnyvale Crossing and an adjacent new campus project, currently in planning, that could include another 770,000 square feet of new office space.

Apple has also leased the 101 Tech, a 202,000-square-foot office development in San Jose, just north of the Mineta International SJC Airport. It has plans for building another massive complex on the 86 acres around the site.

This site, too, is south of the red flood zone. SJC airport is just visible in the lower right corner of the map above, and Apple's campus there would be south and east of Intel, one of the firms located on the edge of flood risk.


  • Reply 1 of 30
  • Reply 2 of 30
    I'm lucky that my Apple Music files (and some of my older iCloud emails) are on servers in Reno and Ireland. (Oh wait a minute, they just got load-balanced over to Germany.)

    I'll update this post every 45 seconds with location of my cloud files.
  • Reply 3 of 30
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,002member
    First para, last sentence, 'principal' not 'principle.'

    (Sorry I am too lazy to report directly to AI.)

    Well it is true that the offices are centered in Cupertino. :lol:
  • Reply 4 of 30
    Speaking (unofficially) as someone who works in the flood insurance industry, it's not just the shore Silicon Valley will need to worry about. It's also any areas where surface runoff will collect and where it can't runoff in areas where water runoff wasn't properly planned for like low lying areas. Just because a building isn't in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), it doesn't mean it can't flood especially with a possibly historic El Niño year. If there are any wildfire burn scars nearby, add some possible mudflow too.
  • Reply 5 of 30
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,789member
    Maybe it's time to start working on the ?Boat.
  • Reply 6 of 30
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,002member
    sockrolid wrote: »
    Maybe it's time to start working on the ?Boat.

    Or you can just head for hills. ;)
  • Reply 7 of 30

    Every business and residence should have mandatory filtered rain reservoirs as a secondary source of water. Now is the time to capture that water and hold onto it for the future dry season.

  • Reply 8 of 30

    This is self-inflicted and not really an "environmental" problem. The low-lying areas of the Peninsula are mostly reclaimed land (also called land fill), where dirt and sediment was dumped into marshes and water to create more real estate. Flooding is a natural consequence. Even worse, in an earthquake, you get liquefaction as the soil turns back into mud, and your building gets destroyed. Without an earthquake, buildings still have continual settling issues which ends up in big bucks foundation work. If companies were truly concerned about disasters and hazards, they simply wouldn't build there.

  • Reply 9 of 30
    The spaceship, when complete, is also fully submersible and has its own independent life support system.
  • Reply 10 of 30
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,002member
    The spaceship, when complete, is also fully submersible and has its own independent life support system.

    Why submerge when you can fly? ;)
  • Reply 11 of 30
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    The bay is openly connected to the Pacific Ocean, it's all tidal. Storm surge from off the Pacific from the equivalent of Superstorm Sandy I can see, but runoff from general area heavy precipitation? Not in my view, El Niño precipitation won't raise the Pacific level and rain into the bay will flow out the Golden Gate. The Sacramento and other inland river systems might have challenges depending on how much of their drainage systems haven't been put behind currently mostly empty reservoirs which will catch the runoff long before it even reached the bay.
  • Reply 12 of 30

    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

    Maybe it's time to start working on the ?Boat.

    Question is, can we afford it?


  • Reply 13 of 30
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,228member
    Interesting fact about the ENSO. In La Niña years, you can get drought in the eastern pacific, and Australia is full of flooding rains. In El Niño years, it's the other way around.

    So all those Californian people praying for rain are praying for a drought in Australia. And Australians praying for rain are praying for drought in America.

    Anyway, one third of the time ENSO events don't cause anything, even super El Ninos. They are just one of the many influences of weather around the pacific, even though s major one.
  • Reply 14 of 30
    A half-century and more ago, California was one of the most well-run states in the country, with various water projects that helped to mitigate for its low-rainfall. That became the foundation for its prosperity.

    Then a madness descended upon the state. It now spends huge sums for high-speed train projects that'll never be finished and aren't high-speed anyway. It spends little on water projects. California now has a decaying infrastructure, lousy schools, and high rates of crime and poverty.

    Will California be able to prevent this flooding? Probably not. Will it be able to store this over-abundant water for drier times? Almost certain not. This is California. It does almost nothing right.

    And what's the key reason? California not only shifted from a two-party state to a one-party state. It became utterly dominated by the Democratic party. Take it from someone who grew up in a segregated South that always voted Democratic, there no move as stupid as that one.

    So look for flooding in the Silicon Valley, lots of flooding, flooding that a little investment could have prevented. After all, this is California, the worst managed state in the union. Worst of all, it's highly unlikely to change. It's not only broken. It's not going to be fixed.
  • Reply 15 of 30
    sockrolid wrote: »
    Maybe it's time to start working on the ?Boat.

    I think Google has a barge they will sell you...
  • Reply 16 of 30
    They don't call it a "valley" for nothing...

    "...and away goes Google down the drain..."
  • Reply 17 of 30
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,787member
    I am pretty sure that the local economy there could afford to bring in a few Dutch engineers and protect that entire area with a massive dike!
  • Reply 18 of 30
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,002member
    I am pretty sure that the local economy there could afford to bring in a few Dutch engineers and protect that entire area with a massive dike!

    Why go to the Netherlands? I'm sure they can find a massive dike, or 2 in San Francisco. :lol:
  • Reply 19 of 30

    El Nino shunts most storms systems further south. The Bay Area wont' feel this.

  • Reply 20 of 30

    Land use changes.

    As more and more land is covered up with buildings, roads and parking lots there is less open ground to soak up rain water.

    The surface result is more run off. That run off increases the chances of flash floods.

    You might not be getting more rain, it just seems that way since it has fewer places to soak in.

    Below the surface, all that covered ground reduces soil moisture and aquifer replenishment.


    The situation makes me think of an old Gallagher joke.

    "They say that cites are ruining the environment. Why do they say that? It's the farmers. The farmers plant the crops that leach the nutrients from the soil. They rotate the crops, they rotate the nutrients that leach from the soil. Where in the cities they lay down parking lots and asphalt, seal in the nutrients."

Sign In or Register to comment.