While the new storms entering Northern California this week provide precipitation to replenish waterways and increase snowpack, they also provide the fear that officials have been worrying about since record-breaking fires scarred the landscape of over a million acres in NorCal this year.
The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch in the burned areas in NorCal, most notably the areas of the Camp, Carr, Hirz, Delta and Mendocino Complex Fires.
“Ash, mud, and debris flows will be possible with heavy rain. If you are near these areas, stay weather aware,” the NWS Sacramento wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.
Officials have long feared that the first storms of the winter may cause flooding in burned areas which have lost many of the flood suppressants that naturally absorb and divert water movement. It’s the great irony of the upcoming wet season, needed badly to help avoid another record fire season next summer, but posing immediate threats due to this year’s record fires.
The areas of concern are Interstate 5 near Shasta Lake (Hirz, Delta and Carr Fires), Highway 299 in western Shasta County (Carr Fire), Highway 70 (Camp Fire), the Skyway in Butte County (Camp Fire) and Highway 20 near Clearlake (Mendocino Complex Fire).
Officials encourage motorists to avoid the areas that look to be affected by debris flows during storms. Don’t try to navigate the landscape, but instead turn around and head to higher ground.