First came fire. Now the floods? With late seasonal fires, which are more common in California, twinning of the two…
First came fire. Now the floods?
With late seasonal fires, which are more common in California, twinning of the two disasters is an alarmingly common fear. Officials in both northern and southern California are planning a week for the possibility of a second set of disasters while fighting the first flames.
Two weeks ago, emergency situations sparkled the doors of paradise, warning California residents to escape where Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive fire of the state, ran uncontrolled to the city. It has claimed 79 lives with more deaths that are expected and destroyed more than 1
1,000 homes since its inception.
Now, less than two weeks later, the state of the Cal Fire team reappears on the remaining doors of the remote northern California canyons where the fire burned through, warning to residents of a new and imminent danger:
Powerful junk-filled lightning Floods fed by heavy rains can drive down burned heights in the next few days.
This is the new California, where hypervariable fires burn at the end of autumn and even early winter and leave high altitudes impervious to water and susceptible to suddenly flooding slurries of water, ash, surface, trees, rocks and other material. In some cases, the hot zone is just above housing development.
With rain expected in fire areas a week, six separate agencies have issued public flash flood alerts since Monday for the mountains around the still burning Camp Fire in Butte County. Included is a strong warning from the State Department of Conservation that rubbish flows can be up to 50 meters deep and run at 30 miles per hour.
A dozen members of the Cal Fire Watershed Emergency Response Team (WERT) have combed The Burned Hills near Pulga and Concow since last week trying to identify the highest risk areas.
Another 21-member WERT-led team does the same thing in the week at Woolsey Fire, which has burned 1,500 homes in the coastal mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura County.
These crews quickly become a protection guard aimed at preventing a second wave of mass accidents after fires.
The crew carefully walks the ground with spades and poures water to the ground to determine the level of hydrophobicity of the soil – how much it will dispense water. They are controlled by satellite images of the burned areas, as well as by helicopter crews looking for places where the fire seems to have burned particularly hot, leaving a little behind to slow down the earth’s roll if a slide happens.
The eldest burns in Camp Fire seem to be easily populated, says Eric Huff, WERT chief on Tuesday – which means fewer people are in danger. But there are a handful of homes dotted around these areas.
“We have contacted these people to let them know they are in the higher risk area,” he said. WERT members have warned that they are ready to leave if the rain hits hard and quickly. “People must be aware and stay away from harm.”
The National Weather Service meteorologists said the first set of storms this week is likely to cause some rain, but they said they do not think it will be of intensity that typically triggers a rubbish flow, which is about a quarter of 15 minutes.
“This first (storm) is not what we would call a yellow burner, but we’re worried and we’re watching it,” said Dan Keeton of the weather service. “It remains to see how (earth) will react.”
Several geologists and hydrologists interviewed by The Bee point out that the state is suffering from flood and flood floods, especially in southern California, some of which cause deaths. But with temperatures rising and more fires, the threat looks bigger and more widespread.
Wastewater differs from mudslides, which typically means that the hills are so saturated with water that they slumber and slip. Researchers describe rubbish flows more related to floods, as flows often contain more than 50 percent water and flow rapidly.
“A rubbish flow is a flood of steroids,” said Jason Kean, a survey health scientist for the United States geological survey. “You add stones, rocks and other objects.” The weight, it’s deadly. “You can not block it with a sandbag. You can not eradicate a rubbish flow.” You have to get out of the way. “
Government officials learned a sharp Lesson on the Power of Junk Flow in January When a Massive Slurry hit Santa Barbara County Montecito days after Thomas Fire had crawled on
The Emergency Guard issued flashflow and evacuation warnings before the storm but was surprised by the speed and width of the flow that destroyed more than 400 homes left 21 people dead and two missing.
A quarter mile from Highway 101 in Montecito was buried for a week in twelve feet of wet clay and junk, and missing cars and trucks were deposited on the beach below the city.
Santa Barbara officials said they believed that some Montecito residents stayed in their homes despite alerts because they suffered from “evacuation fatigue”, after being told several times in the weeks before to leave because of Thomas Fire in nearby mountains.
One of them, Brent Larson, woke up on what sounded like a freight train that came down the hill above his house. A wall of water, clay and stone struck through a window, for a second, then a third that poured into the house as Larson and his sons jumped to a fire safety at the other end. Larson said it felt like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.
A volunteer evacuation order was in place for his neighborhood. He did not take it seriously. Next time, he says, “If there’s a volunteer evacuation, I’ll get hell out of there.”
Other residents who survived woke up to find their neighborhoods enclosed in clay. A gloomy Oprah Winfrey shot and published a video of her farm covered with clay. She was lucky. Her neighbor was not. “The house in the back … is … gone,” she said in the video.
National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Jackson gives talks about junk flows. His message: There are other Montecitos awaiting the state.
“These things really go too fast to fly when you’re there,” he said. “About you can see burned hills from your house, you are susceptible.”
Cal Fire WERT Chief Huff says Montecito disaster opened his eyes among urgent first respondents about the need to get a quick handle on the potential ladders of fuel after fires Camp fire was only days old when firefighting leaders called WERT and asked them for help.
“We learned from Thomas Fire that we need to move fast,” said Huff. Even when the fires broke last week, “management groups call,” We need a WERT team out there now. “”
With rain protection, he predicted that it feels like a contest against time. “We’ve had moments (in the past week) where it felt the bell tickled high in my head.”
Geologists at Geological Survey in the United States published on Monday the first preliminary maps showing where the risk of rubbish flow is highest at Camp and Woolsey fires. These maps will change as more information comes from WERT crews and from the United States Forest Services ‘Burned Area Emergency Response Teams’.
“If you live in one of these areas, people must have an eye on the slopes and the other on the weather forecast,” said UCLA climate researcher Dan Swain. “You can not put it back on.”
The good news in the north California, said Huff, is that there are only a few high-risk areas for junk flows, and there are only a few homes in these areas. There are larger slopes of mountain sides at risk at Southern California’s Woolsey Fire, swept through the Malibu Sea.
Officials have warned flood or litter flow potential in other fire areas this winter, including the Redding area where Carr Fire burned this summer, and the hills near Clear Lake where Mendocino Complex Fire burned.
Residents of Montecito are still not far away from the danger zone. Officials say that some burned mountain areas take several years to regain normality.
Crew, however, makes plac your junk on mountain slopes above the feather river and tributaries to limit potential flows of toxic material to fishing, “said Huff.
Jackson, the meteorologist, said officials are not worried at the moment. Most of the time, they are welcome rain because it will start regrowing on burnt slopes so that they can start the process of returning to normal, he said.
“Not all these storms are a bad storm,” he said. “We have a drought. We need rain. We just made it go fast.”