Rain and mountain snow will move across much of the state Wednesday, creating a reprieve on firefighting efforts but also causing additional angst about potential mudslides in burn-scarred areas.
The precipitation will be confined to central and northern California Thursday and Friday, while dry conditions will return across the state for Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
“The National Weather Service is monitoring the potential for heavy rain over recent burn scar areas across California through Friday which may cause debris flows,” said NWS Regional Response and Preparedness Specialist Matt Solum. “Heavy snow over the Sierra will also impact travel during this time frame.”
Flash Flood Watches are in effect from Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning for several burn scars across California including areas surrounding the Camp, Carr, Delta, Hirz, and the Mendocino Complex fires. The Ferguson Fire burn scar area in the southern Sierra is under a Flash Flood Watch from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning, and likewise for the Natchez and Eclipse burn scar areas in far Northern California from Thursday morning through Friday afternoon.
Those traveling in or along these areas should be prepared for possible road problems due to flooding, rock, and debris flows. Caltrans pre-positioned resources including equipment, personnel, and supplies in advance of the storms, and the Caltrans’ headquarters communication center will be open 24 hours a day throughout the storm to monitor highways in fire-impacted regions.
“Caltrans’ first priority is the safety of the traveling public,” said Matthew Rosenberg, Public Information Officer for the California Department of Transportation. “The department is preparing for storms through a variety of methods in an effort to keep the highways safe. During this rainy weather, Caltrans is working with civil engineers, geologists, and meteorologists to anticipate debris and mudflows in the fire-impacted areas.”
Caltrans reminds the motoring public to “know before you go” and check the Caltrans QuickMap app at http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ for the latest road conditions prior to holiday travel.
Driving conditions are also expected to be dangerous over the next few days, especially toward the Sierras. In advance of the holiday commute, the California Highway Patrol reminds drivers to prepare for slower travel.
“Most crashes in bad weather occur due to driving too fast,” said CHP spokesman Mike Harris. “so the first and foremost tip is: It’s a matter of physics that your vehicle can’t stop or turn as accurately on wet pavement. Please slow down.”
Prepare for potential inclement weather by leaving early, allowing plenty of time to get where you’re going and always leave ample distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. Also, make sure your windshield wipers are in good working condition before you begin driving.
Freeways will often flood nearest the roadway edges, especially on elevated roadways with walls on both sides. Avoid the outside lanes, especially at night. Never drive through standing water because you never know how deep the water is or what may be lurking underneath.
If you experience an emergency on the freeway, call 9-1-1 from your mobile phone. CHP response times are often delayed due to the high volume of calls that occur during bad weather. If you are involved in a minor collision, move out of the roadway as soon as possible to prevent secondary collisions and to keep roadways moving. Also, do not stand outside of your vehicle in the lanes of traffic if you are involved in a traffic collision.
Aside from Flash Flood Watches this week, there is also a Fire Weather Watch in effect Friday for the eastern Sierra for strong winds. Possible weak Santa Ana wind events starting Saturday night through early next week across Southern California will also create elevated fire weather concerns.