Wildfire burn scars in Northern California see flash flooding, debris flows from powerful storms

24 October 2021

Published by https://www.capradio.org/

USA – Heavy rains are causing rock slides, flash floods and debris flows around wildfire burn scars in Northern California.

A flash flood and debris flow warning is still in effect for the Caldor Fire until 9 a.m. Warnings were issued Sunday for the Dixie and River fires, which expired at 3 a.m. Monday. Under a debris flow warning, ash or debris flows could be imminent or occurring.

Highway 70 is closed from the Jarbo Gap to Highway 89 after a rock slide near the Plumas/Butte County line at the Dixie Fire burn scar, one of several road closures in the region. Check the latest road conditions on Caltrans’ QuickMap.

A flash flood watch was in effect through 5 a.m. Monday for other burn scars in the region. Weather officials forecast as much as 10 inches of rain in some areas, which could trigger ash and debris flows around the burns scars of the Caldor, Camp, Carr, Delta/Hirz, Dixie, McFarland, North, River, Salt and Zogg fires.

Placer County issued evacuation orders because of potential debris flows for some areas around the River Fire burn scar east of the Bear River near Colfax. Those areas are Hillcrest Boulevard south from 1565 Hillcrest Boulevard to Spring Valley Road; Spring Valley Road from Milk Ranch Road; and Ben Taylor Road to the Bear River.

Placer County also closed some roads in Colfax around the River Fire burn scar. On Twitter, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said it is treating the watch as a warning, and that “Those living in or around the burn scar who choose to remain in the area should be prepared to leave in a moment’s notice.”

El Dorado County has set up do-it-yourself sandbag stations at 4837 Sciaroni Road in Grizzly Flats, Fire Station 38 at 7061 Mount Aukum Road, and Fire Station 32 at 4470 Sandridge Road. Stations will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

As of Saturday, Nevada County has issued evacuation warnings around the River Fire burn scar west of Colfax. Check the county’s evacuation map here.

To see the risk near you, the U.S. Geological Survey provides maps showing the likelihood of debris flow in different areas around specific wildfires. The weather service also has a guide for preparing for wildfire area flash floods and debris flow.

Ben Bartos is an incident meteorologist on the Dixie Fire. He warned that mountainous areas where the fire burned hot through the understory are particularly at risk for mudslides.

“When we get a lot of rain on a bare surface and there’s no vegetation to kind of absorb that water anymore, that water just runs downhill and takes dirt, mud, sticks – maybe some small rocks with it – and just creates a muddy mess,” he said.

Ben Bartos is an incident meteorologist on the Dixie Fire. He warned that mountainous areas where the fire burned hot through the understory are particularly at risk for mudslides.

“When we get a lot of rain on a bare surface and there’s no vegetation to kind of absorb that water anymore, that water just runs downhill and takes dirt, mud, sticks – maybe some small rocks with it – and just creates a muddy mess,” he said.

Bartos added people with property in drainages or flood-prone areas should pay special attention to the weather over the next few days.

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