California Governor Gavin Newsom recently declared a state of emergency for numerous regions across the state as heavy storms are forecasted to continue, bringing inches of rain in areas usually used to drought conditions. Evacuation orders have been issued in Montecito, across Santa Barbara County, Santa Cruz County, and much of the Bay Area, such as Gilroy and parts of San Jose. Hundreds of thousands of homes in California have also been affected by power outages caused by gale-force winds from the “parade of cyclones” off the coast that knocked down powerlines.
To make matters worse, the force of the storms is felt the most in counties that had previously been ravaged by wildfires last year. Scorched earth can’t absorb water well and there is no vegetation to break up the terrain. The combination effectively creates a natural slide that quickly hurls water downward, resulting in a dramatically heightened risk of flashfloods, landslides, and mudflows.
A few areas in Southern California that are under a flashflood watch include:
- Big Bear
In NorCal, the county getting the most attention from the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is Butte County. Wildfires suspected to have been caused by downed and defective utility lines have created precarious terrain throughout Butte County, which is also being hit by heavy rainfall. The combination could be disastrous, so Cal OES is on the scene with rescue teams and equipment at the ready.
Staying Safe in a Heavy Storm & Flood Risk Area
From all of us at Robins Cloud LLP, we are wishing the safest days to everyone in California who has been impacted by wildfires, heavy rain, or flooding. Please take a moment to review some basic information that can help you stay safe in the coming days. You can start by clicking here to review the Emergency Assessment of Post-Fire Debris-Flow Hazards map by the United States Geological Survey to see if your property is in a hazard area.
Quick safety tips about landslides and mudflows:
- Prepare an emergency safety kit that includes water, nonperishable food, basic medical supplies, blankets for everyone in your household, a radio, and other necessities. Keep the kit somewhere you can easily access if you need to leave your home in a hurry.
- Learn local evacuation plans – which can sometimes be found by contacting the local fire department – and share them with your household members.
- If you notice cracks or bumps in the road, hills, or slopes around your house, then it could be the first warning side that the groundwater is swelling, and a landslide is imminent.
- Sudden cracks in the walls or windows and doors that suddenly stick shut are also telltale signs that the foundation under your home is shifting.
- If a landslide or a debris flow begins, which is usually preceded by the sound of cracking trees and stones, attempt to move out of the way and to safer ground as best as possible. Staying in your home is extremely dangerous and should only be attempted as a last resort.
- If you cannot get out of the way of a mudslide, curl tightly into a ball, and protect your head.
- When a landslide or mudflow ends, be aware that it will likely be followed by further flooding in the surrounding area. You may still need to evacuate even if your home was not hit by the landslide.
- Stay away from downed powerlines and any water near them. Call 911 or report them directly to the local utility company.
- “Thousands of Californians under evacuation orders as flood threats continue and death toll of recent storms climbs to 17” (CNN)
- “Flash Flooding, Evacuations After Deadly Storm Hits CA” (Associated Press via Fire Engineering®)
- “Cal OES helps wildfire-ravaged communities prepare for potential flooding” (ABC 7 KRCR)
- “California city orders evacuation as US faces continued storms” (Aljazeera News)
- “Flooding” (County of Napa, California website)