California Storms Bring Fear of Devastating Mudslides

Threat to areas that were swept by flames in recent years

 

This photo provided by KGET-TV shows a CalTrans snow removal vehicle clearing a roadway on Interstate 5 where it has been closed due to snow at Tejon Pass, an area known as the Grapevine, at Gorman in the Tehachapi Mountains of Southern California Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. The first in a series of Pacific storms is moving across Southern California, where downpours could unleash mud and debris flows from large wildfire burn scars. (KGET-TV via AP)

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A year after a mudslide swept through a fire-devastated California town, killing 21 people, residents of hundreds homes in burn areas were told to pack up and leave as a Pacific storm threatened potential catastrophe.

In Riverside County east of Los Angeles, mandatory evacuations were ordered Monday for a dozen areas around the Holy Fire, which swept through an enormous swath of the Cleveland National Forest and surrounding areas last August.

See also  Videos Put Scrutiny on Downed Power Lines as Possible Cause of Deadly Maui (HI) Wildfires

“People in these zones MUST GO NOW. Rainstorms carry the potential for dangerous debris flows that can send mud, boulders and trees crashing down hillsides” with little or no warning, a county statement said.

The evacuation was later downgraded to voluntary but authorities urged people to stay alert because of continuing rain forecasts.

In Santa Barbara County on the central coast, evacuation orders were set to take effect at 10 a.m. Tuesday for areas hit by the Sherpa, Whittier and Thomas fires.

“Gather family members, pets, and essential items,” a county statement said. A debris flow could also make roads impassable and strand people near the evacuation areas, especially in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria, the county warned.

After a devastating fire that burned and destabilized foothills, Montecito was hit by a powerful storm on Jan. 9, 2018, that sent water, mud and boulders sluicing down creeks and canyons. Twenty-three people died and over 100 homes were destroyed.

See also  Portugal Records Its Fewest Summer Wildfires in 10 years

Weather forecasters have predicted a series of storms that could continue to bring rain and snow into the middle of the week. Flash flood watches were issued by the National Weather Service for burn areas in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, which could see as much as an inch of rain per hour from Tuesday afternoon into the evening.

All schools in Malibu were closed Tuesday.

Flooding and debris flows were a threat to hundreds of homes in areas below foothills and canyons that were swept by flames in recent years.

Los Angeles County authorities issued evacuation orders beginning Tuesday morning for some areas of the Woolsey Fire. The blaze that broke out in November destroyed more than 1,500 homes and other buildings from Ventura County to Malibu and killed four people.

On Monday, the first in the series of storms dumped an inch of rain in Los Angeles and snow in the mountains.

See also  Nevada Wildfire Evacuees Returning Home

Rain closed the Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement parks.

In San Diego County, a 20-foot-long (6.1-meter), 20-foot-deep sinkhole on an Interstate 805 off-ramp near Serra Mesa.

A mudslide closed a 4.4-mile (7-kilometer) section of section of Pacific Coast Highway just north of Malibu on Monday for several hours. In Encino, in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, a guest house was pushed off its foundation by a 250-foot-long (76-meter) debris flow from a hillside. No one was hurt but the Fire Department said up to a dozen other homes were in the slide zone.

Ice and blowing snow shut down the Grapevine, a high pass on Interstate 5, a major route connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco. Dozens of cars and trucks were stranded before the road reopened after nightfall.

Demetrius Moore, a 35-year-old producer for a court TV show in Chicago, was in California for a warm-weather winter vacation. Instead, he found himself huddling in his rental car in the mountain town of Gorman.

“I have just over a quarter of a tank,” Moore said from his car, where he had been sitting waiting for traffic to clear for more than an hour. “I’m growing concerned. I have water and a little bit of a latte left, no food. I’m just kind of hanging out, hoping for the best and wondering if I’ll get out.”

All contents © copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Topics

Subscribe to Our Monthly Newsletter

Stay in the loop with our wildland newsletter.

Threat to areas that were swept by flames in recent years     LOS ANGELES (AP) — A year after a mudslide swept through a fire-devastated California town, killing 21 people, residents of hundreds homes in burn areas were told to pack up and leave as a Pacific storm threatened potential catastrophe. In Riverside County […]

Get The Wildland Firefighter Newsletter

Related Articles

ID Orders Evacuations as Wildland Fire Takes Off

ID Orders Evacuations as Wildland Fire Takes Off

By Kerri Sandaine Of The Tribune  -  Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho Jul. 17—A rapidly growing wildfire about 26 miles southwest of Clarkston kept firefighters from the Department of Natural Resources and other agencies busy throughout Tuesday and into the...

CA Reports First Wildfire Death of the 2024 Season As Fires Persist

CA Reports First Wildfire Death of the 2024 Season As Fires Persist

By RIO YAMAT and JANIE HAR Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Wildfires fueled by strong winds and an extended heat wave have led to the first death in California of the 2024 season, while wind-whipped flames in Arizona have forced hundreds to flee from what tribal...