Video claiming to be California flash flood actually from theme park

8 February 2024
What was claimed

A video shows flash flooding down a street in California during heavy rainstorms.

Our verdict

False. The footage circulating on social media doesn’t depict a real flood, but a staged ‘flash flood’ attraction—part of the studio tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.

A video is being shared on social media with the claim it shows a road in California being struck by severe flooding as part of intense rainstorms engulfing the state.

Users on Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter) have been sharing a video with captions saying it depicts flooding in California, with some specifying it as the city of Santa Clarita—north of Los Angeles.

One user sharing the video says in a caption: “This just happened in Santa Clarita earlier. Please pray for Southern California during these heavy rainstorms.”

In the footage a huge volume of water surges down a street and through a building, before splashing near the point of filming, while thunder can be heard and lights flash.

Parts of California have been struck by extensive flooding, strong winds and power failure in recent weeks

However, the footage circulating on social media is not of a real incident of flash flooding in the US state.

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What does the footage actually show?

The same video with different audio was posted on YouTube in August 2023, by an account that covers theme parks, with the description: “Universal Studios WATER FLOOD [sic].”

In the audio with this footage, people’s voices can be heard laughing and exclaiming in excitement as the water surges down the road.

This is because it is not a real weather-related flood, but an attraction called ‘Flash Flood’ on the studio tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The street is actually part of a working film set depicting a facsimile of a Mexican village, which was introduced as part of the tour in 1968. 

The flooding effect is achieved by more than 37,000 litres of water from two tanks pouring down the hill and through a building on the left of the street, which is then pumped back to the top.

Another longer video of the attraction shows the prelude to the simulated flooding scenario, where strobe lighting is used for lightning and water sprays simulate rain. 

Other footage from attractions on the tour, including a flooded train station, has previously been used to claim it is from real weather events

Although this video is not depicting what is claimed, powerful storms and record breaking rainfall have been hitting California in recent days and causing life-threatening flash flooding.

The extreme weather has been caused by ‘atmospheric rivers’—where condensed water vapour is carried along by the wind, forming long currents flowing in the sky.

Miscaptioned videos are a common form of misinformation we see during natural disasters and significant global news events. We have written about old footage which some claimed showed a recent tsunami in Japan, and a video of a Beirut explosion wrongly said to show an earthquake in Turkey.

It’s important to check whether posts on social media show what is claimed before sharing them. We’ve written a guide on how to verify videos here. 

Image courtesy of Loren Javier

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