First the Thomas Fire, Now Flash Flooding

California residents that were only weeks ago forced to evacuate their homes due to the catastrophic Thomas Fire are now facing another potential disaster. With a powerful rainstorm bearing down on the area, thousands of residents all across southern California were informed on Monday that they would need to evacuate once again due to the risk of flash floods and mudslides brought on by the storm.

Officials in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties were out on Monday informing residents in those areas affected by the Thomas fire that they were at risk and would need to evacuate. Many residents in nearby Burbank and Corona counties were told to watch for a potential evacuation order if conditions worsened. Although the evacuation order was mandatory, residents could remain in their homes if they were willing to sign a document stating that they understood the risk of doing so.

The flash flood and mudslide risk is directly linked to the destruction wrought on the area by the Thomas fire. When a fire sweeps through an area and burns all of the vegetation, it makes mudslides and flooding much more likely as the vegetation helps to keep the soil in place. Similarly, the extreme heat of the fire also harms the ability of the soil to absorb water, which further increases the chances of catastrophic flooding.

Already, it seems that some of the officials worst fears about the storm have been confirmed. Early Tuesday morning, officials announced that the 101 Freeway was shut down in both directions near the burn area due to flooding and debris flows blocking the road. Similarly, Route 33 in Ventura county was also shut down north of Ojai due to flooding.

Some of the worst damage seems to be in the Santa Barbara County area, where officials reported that a heavy band of rain hit at approximately 2:30 a.m. this morning. The heavy rains led to mudflows in some parts of Montecito that were at least waist-high and caused numerous downed trees and power lines. It also led to a broken gas main that has caused at least one fire.

Officials all across the counties worst affected by the Thomas fire have reported numerous missing-persons and rescue calls. However, the good news is that the worst of the flooding is projected to be over, which means residents might finally get some much-needed rest from Mother Nature’s fury.