After nearly 300 days of heat and flames, Southern California has been hit with sheets of water, with recent burn areas expecting at least four inches of rain.
The deadly fires of California scorched away brush and badly damaged the soil, making these rains the worst possible thing to follow. Under normal circumstances, the soil in areas such as Santa Barbara could absorb up to half an inch before becoming runoff, making it a safeguard against flash floods. However, recent fires have charred the earth, making the ground hydrophobic and a breeding ground for mudslides.
Kelly Hoover, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office estimated that at least 8 have been killed and 25 injured after the rain hit Santa Barbara, a victim of the Thomas fires. At 2:30 am, these “waist high” mudflows breezed through Montecito, wrecking havoc and killing civilians. All 8 died in Montecito.
In response, large swaths of Californians have been ordered to evacuate for the second time in six months, with communities damaged by the Thomas fire most at risk. Between Monday and Tuesday, these areas could experience as much as 9 inches of rainfall according to Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. Debris flows begin at about a third of that rate.
Storms are expected to last until Wednesday, but the flooding will impact Los Angeles for weeks to come.