Possible Dangerous Mud, Debris Flow Prompts California Evacuation Orders

by Victoria Santiago

Evacuation orders have been posted for some parts of California as storms continue to develop. Mud and debris flows could be caused by the downpour of rain.

Debris flows are caused by run-off with nowhere to go. Heavy rainfall and damaged soil both contribute to debris flows. Typically, when wildfires damage the soil and vegetation in an area, it makes it harder for water to be absorbed. Debris flow is made up of trees, rocks, and vegetation. The flows accumulate more debris as they travel downhill. The National Weather Service says that debris flow can start just minutes after heavy rainfall, and can reach speeds that will outrun vehicles.

Weather models are showing that central and southern California could be in for over half a foot of rain. The stormy weather could last until Sunday. Until Sunday, San Diego is expected to receive two to three inches of rain. Los Angeles and Santa Maria will both get three to five inches of rain. Also, Bakersfield should only get one to two inches of rain. Many communities have issued evacuation notices to prepare for the storms.

So far, notices have been posted for the following communities. The Bond Fire burn area has a voluntary order, which includes Silverado Canyon, Williams Canyon, and Modjeska. For Yucaipa, the evacuation warning includes Oak Glen, Forest Falls, Mountain Home Village, Northeast Yucaipa, and Highway 38 from Bryant to Angelus Oak. Fontana has issued an order for Nealeys Corner and the Lytle Creek area.

While California’s canyons can expect to get heavy rain and debris flow, the mountain areas will fare differently. Meteorologists say that higher elevations could get one to three feet of snow until Sunday. For portions of the Sierra Nevada, four to six feet of frozen precipitation could occur.

Flash Floods and Debris Flow Has Already Occurred This Week

Much of Orange County, California has already experienced some adverse effects of the storms. Areas that were hit the hardest had been affected by the 2020 Bond Fire. Orange County had a mandatory evacuation notice. Flooding and mud flow both impacted first responders as they tried to find people. Some officials saw three cars being swept away into the Los Angeles River.

The first car got stuck in a column of Washington Bridge. First responders could not see if there was anyone in the car at that time. The other two cars floated down the river past the Washington Bridge. The river took them towards L.A. County. A spokesperson for the L.A. Fire Department, Nicholas Prange, stated: “So far, we have not recovered any victims who might have been in the three vehicles.”

With this last bout of bad weather coming up, hopefully, California residents will be able to end the year on a high note. The weather pattern responsible for these devastating storms will be moving on within the next couple of days. Until then, there isn’t much that citizens can do, except leave. Leaving is not always possible, but it is the best option. In areas with either rain or snow, travel will be limited. If you’re in California, try to stay safe as we close out this holiday season.