Residents in recent burn areas asked to stay alert as storm approaches SoCal

In Santa Barbara County, an evacuation order was issued for parts of the Alisal Fire burn scar due to potential debris flow.

Marc Cota-Robles Image
Monday, October 25, 2021
SoCal storm threatens foothill burn areas
Public works crews installed K-rails and sandbags to guard against mud flows during Monday's rainstorm in Southern California.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Monday's rainstorm throughout Southern California created a serious threat for people living near the burn areas of recent wildfires.

In Santa Barbara County, an evacuation order was issued for parts of the Alisal Fire burn scar due to the incoming storm's potential to produce a debris flow.

Some communities in the Inland Empire had to evacuate after mud began flowing down the hills in areas burned by the El Dorado Fire.

But for the most part, the rain did not result in the kind of serious damage brought by other storms in recent years, which have covered homes in debris, sent cars flowing down the street in a river of mud and in some cases, led to fatalities.

Debris flow will remain a concern all winter for burn areas in Los Angeles County, including neighborhoods impacted by the Bobcat Fire, Lake Fire, Ranch2 Fire, Saddle Ridge Fire and the Woolsey Fire, which dates back to 2018.

In recent weeks, Los Angeles County Public Works crews have been preparing burn areas for the rain by installing K-rails and distributing sandbags. Free sand and sandbags are available at many county fire stations.

As it rained, Public Works crews patrolled the areas looking out for mud and debris flows and blocked mountain roads.

"That's the price of living in the hills," said Monrovia resident Mark Craig. "You have to deal with fires, you have to deal with burns."

"Other times it's a beautiful place to stay."

READ ALSO | Storm heading toward SoCal prompts concern in recent burn areas

"Flowing streams and erosion are likely in hillside and mountain areas making them very unstable," said county officials in a statement. "Residents in low-lying areas can expect to see some ponding on the roadway."

Officials are urging people to drive carefully and be on the lookout for rocks or debris on roadways, especially in the steep canyon areas of burned watersheds.

High winds forced all aircraft crews assigned to the fire to remain grounded due to unsafe flying conditions, fire officials said.

The same storm system also slammed Oregon and Washington state, causing power outages affecting tens of thousands of people. Two people were killed when a tree fell on a vehicle in the greater Seattle area. Eastside Fire & Rescue responded to the scene of the fatalities near Preston, Washington, which is about 20 miles east of Seattle.

Recent storms have helped contain some of the nation's largest wildfires this year. But it remains to be seen if the wet weather will make a dent in the drought that's plaguing California and the western United States.

California's climate is hotter and drier now and that means the rain and snow that does fall is more likely to evaporate and less likely to absorb into the soil.

California's 2021 water year, which ended Sept. 30, was the second driest on record and last year's was the fifth driest on record. Some of the state's most important reservoirs are at record-low levels.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.