As rain moves into Southern California, wildfire burn areas on alert




Public safety officials are closely watching a chilly, three-pronged storm that moved into Southern California Friday, Jan. 22, whose heaviest precipitation was expected to last through Monday.

It’s uncertain whether there will be enough heavy rain, or accumulation of rain, to dislodge mud and other debris from wildfire burn areas where the vegetation that holds together mountainsides has been incinerated.

“The thing that concerns us is the amount of rainfall that is coming down at a particular time. When we get those heavy rains, when we have inches and inches over a short period of time, that’s when we start having those mud and debris flows,” said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Greg Barta.

The National Weather Service had not issued any flood advisories as of Friday afternoon, and the Riverside County Emergency Management Department tweeted that the rain is unlikely to produce dangerous flows.

Utility workers install a new pole just west of Forest Falls within the El Dorado fire burn scar area Friday afternoon, Jan. 22, 2021. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)


A woman keeps her hat from blowing off as she walks around North Lake in the Woodbridge community in Irvine, CA on Friday, January 22, 2021. A storm system was expected to move through the area. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)






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The El Dorado fire burn scar sits above homes in Forest Falls Friday afternoon, Jan. 22, 2021. Rain and snow are expected in the area through Sunday. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)


Gulls keep watch over North Lake in the Woodbridge community in Irvine, CA as clouds form over the Santa Ana Mountains on Friday, January 22, 2021. A storm system was expected to move through the area. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)


After days of wind and warmer weather, clouds begin to move in bringing a chance of rain and cooler temperatures at Balboa Lake in Lake Balboa on Friday, January 22, 2021. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News)


New signs have been installed in Forest Falls to warn residents and visitors of possible debris flows in the area from last September’s El Dorado fire which burned within feet of some homes in the area as seen Friday afternoon, Jan. 22, 2021. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)


Sand sits for Redlands residents at the city yard Friday afternoon, Jan. 22, 2021. Though there was plenty of sand, no bags or shovel could be found. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)





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But, cautioned Eric Sherwin, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, “The chance is very real. We’ve lost the natural ability for a hillside to absorb and hold moisture” and storms have become less predictable.

Officials urged residents to prepare their homes and motorists to expect rain and snow.


According to the National Weather Service, we can expect rain as early as tomorrow. If your home is prone to flooding, the following OCFA fire stations have sand & bags available to residents. You will have to bring a shovel. #rain #ocwx https://t.co/tsPCcdPKY9 pic.twitter.com/eA4rK0RhsJ

— OCFA PIO (@OCFA_PIO) January 22, 2021

Along with the rain, cooler temperatures are moving in. High temperatures were not expected to top 60 degrees in Southern California valleys in the next several days. High temperatures in the mountains were forecast to range from the upper 20s to upper 30s.

The first round of precipitation was to arrive Friday and forecast to continue into Saturday night, a storm that could bring up to an inch of rain in the mountains and lesser amounts elsewhere, along with several inches of snow above 4,500 feet.

More precipitation is expected Sunday night and forecast to hang around into Monday when the snow level could drop to 2,000 feet and accumulate a foot deep or so.

The weather service is warning of reduced visibility, slippery roads and possible downed trees and power lines in the mountains through Sunday night.

The third round, in a still-developing forecast, expected to bring lighter rain late Wednesday.

Caltrans wrapped up roadside storm preparations Thursday night, de-icing highways, cleaning out drainages and culverts and working on hillsides to limit the possibility of falling rocks, said Terri Kasinga, a spokeswoman for District 8, which covers the Inland Empire. She reminded anyone heading to the mountains to enjoy snow play to bring tire chains and not to block the roads or leave their trash behind.

Sand sits for Redlands residents at the city yard Friday afternoon, Jan. 22, 2021. Though there was plenty of sand, no bags or shovel could be found. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
Barta urged people who plan to stock up on supplies to do so before the storms hit in earnest because traffic collisions typically increase when it rains and snows. Drivers should slow down and watch for pockets of water that could cause a car to hydroplane, he said.

The burn scars from the Silverado, Bond and Blue Ridge fires in Orange County; the Apple and El Dorado fires in the Inland Empire; and the Bobcat fire in Los Angeles County could be prone to flooding.

“If you live in homes in jeopardy, make sure drains are cleared and sandbags or other barriers are in place,” Barta said.

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Many cities and counties have sandbags and/or sand available.

The OCFA website lists fire stations where supplies are available, as does the Los Angeles County Fire Department website. Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department stations have a limited supply of sandbags. All San Bernardino County Fire Department stations have sandbags, and some have sand.

Redlands fire stations have sandbags, and residents can fill them at the City Yard, 1270 W. Park Ave., where sand and shovels are available.

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