(Graphic by LA Times Graphics / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nextzen, OpenStreetMap)
El Rancho High School

Opinion: How one tweet caused mass hysteria in Pico Rivera

Residents of Pico Rivera created what seemed to be a case of online and real-life mass hysteria when an LA Times article made its rounds on social media, specifically on Twitter. The article explained that our fair city would be under 20 feet of water if a 45-day storm known as the ARkStorm ever hit the Southern California area.

The Whittier Narrows Dam is too weak to handle the rain water of the 45-day storm, the article reported. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deemed the dam unsuitable and has said that it no longer meets the tolerable risk guidelines that the agency strongly enforces.

In a worst case scenario, the dam could fail to hold back storm waters and flood the cities surrounding it. This includes cities like Montebello, Downey, Santa Fe Springs and none other than Pico Rivera.

While the ARkStorm itself is quite a rare phenomenon, what was even rarer was the reaction from the residents of Pico Rivera. After the article was shared on Twitter by an El Rancho student, residents, mainly other El Rancho students, expressed their reactions to this information. Ranging everywhere from fearful to shock to even comedic, the reactions were widespread, but, in my opinion, completely uncalled for.

I was surprised to see that many students were actually reading an article from a reputable news source. Often, we all get our news from the trending topics on Twitter or we don’t follow the news at all, so seeing this article linked on many different people’s Twitter accounts was quite a sight.

While I was happy to see that my peers were keeping up with the news, I was also a bit disappointed. The article was completely misunderstood and it was almost as though nobody really read through it in its entirety. Only a few key points stood out to everyone: 20 feet worth of flood water, a 45-day long storm and a dilapidated dam.

These details are, in fact, truthful and part of the article, but many are forgetting another significant detail: this mega-storm has a 1 in 900 chance of happening every year. That is approximately a 0.1% chance of it ever occurring. The odds are very much in our favor, if you ask me.

While the issue is one of great importance, I could not help but think that it was blown out of proportion. The mass hysteria created by the LA Times article is one case that could have been clearly avoided if everyone read through the article and didn’t rely on hearsay. In my opinion, the ARkStorm is nothing to worry about. After all, who is going to stay in the area for the entire 45 days of storms? Certainly not me!

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