California Observer

California is battling deadly storms


Image Source: PBS

About 25 million people in California are under a flood warning this weekend as the latest in a series of storms that have killed people pours rain on the state.

At least 19 people have died, and thousands more people have been told to leave their homes because of flooding.

Residents of Montecito, which is 84 miles (135 km) northwest of Los Angeles, think that the rain makes their trauma worse.

In 2018, 23 people died here because of a mudslide, and many people are afraid it could happen again.

Rita Bourbon says that Italian stone masons saved her life. Her house was made by a skilled worker more than a hundred years ago, and she calls it a fortress.

She lived through the storm five years ago, when she, her daughter, and a few friends hid inside and screamed as they heard boulders and houses that had been torn from their foundations crash into hers.

The next day, the area along the coast from Los Angeles was destroyed, and more than two dozen people died, including her neighbor, who she found dead in the mud in her garden.

This week, Montecito Creek turned violent and roaring, causing fire officials to issue a “Leave Now!” warning to the whole community, which includes some of California’s most famous inhabitants, including Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle.

Although the evacuation order in Montecito has been removed, locals are still on edge. And, with so much of the soil already wet, flooding and landslides are a definite possibility.

Abe Powell is one of the co-founders of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, which was created in 2018 to organize volunteers to help clean up after the catastrophic mudslide.

This week, Powell led volunteers across the town, filling sandbags and constructing trenches. He drove us up a dangerous mountain route where large stones and muck restricted access to some dwellings.

One of the volunteers is film producer Steve McGlothen. He has lived in the area for 50 years and in his cliff-top home for 27.

He explained that helping others takes his mind off the troubles on his farm and the misery he feels as the rain continues to fall. Plastic sheets cover the slope, which slipped away for the first time this week to prevent the recent deluge from worsening the slide.

California Governor Gavin Newsom joined volunteers filling sandbags in Santa Barbara. He claims the location is a “hot point” for him in the coming days.

Californians are accustomed to extreme weather, including wildfires, drought, and the fear of earthquakes, with many anticipating the “Big One” predicted by many experts. Instead, however, the “storm parade” pounding California is unprecedented.

At least 19 individuals have perished due to the storms that began in late December. In addition, a five-year-old kid is still missing after being snatched from his mother’s arms in fast-moving flood water while traveling to school in central California.

Vineyards in Northern California are submerged. Capitola’s ancient wharf has been damaged, and the seaside town has been devastated. In addition, the river is surging in the renowned Salinas Valley, threatening California’s famed agricultural heartland.

US President Joe Biden has now sent federal assistance to Sacramento, Merced, and Santa Cruz counties.

Kimberley Rain Miner, a Nasa climate scientist, says the problem with having so many massive storms so close together is that the earth is already saturated and can’t absorb the water pouring so quickly.

Everyone in California is monitoring their phones, waiting to hear if they should evacuate and wondering where they can go if they do need to leave town.

Montecito in California at risk of mudslides

On Monday, the affluent town of Montecito, California, was asked to evacuate due to mudslides.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and other celebrities live in the coastal town.

Another storm devastated the town five years ago yesterday, causing major mudslides, killing 23 people, and demolishing over 100 homes.

So far, 16 people have died due to the storm currently engulfing southern California.

The US National Weather Service (NWS) claimed that up to 14in (35.5cm) of rain fell in Santa Barbara, the region where Montecito is located, in the last 24 hours.

Experts believe Montecito’s location between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains contributes to the upmarket town’s vulnerability to natural disasters such as floods and mudslides.

Larry Gurrola, an engineering geologist specializing in the Santa Barbara area, spoke with the BBC.

According to him, the steep topography of the mountains to the east and the two types of rock that make up the mountain make the region treacherous.

The Santa Ynez Mountains rise 4,864 feet (1482 meters) above sea level and are made of erodible shale and sandstone.

According to Mr. Gurrola, a “rapid increase in height creates more precipitation at a higher elevation.” And all of that rain falls on the town.

Another component that has the ability to cause mudslides is the weather. California has been suffering from a drought for several years, leaving the terrain parched and arid.

Similarly, when wildfires rage over the area, they can destroy vegetation that normally allows for some absorption of heavy rain.

Read Also: California residents warned of megaflood 

According to Mr. Gurrola, post-fire conditions can considerably increase “runoff velocity,” which is the speed at which debris and precipitation pour down the slope of a mountain.

Debris might flow 50 times quicker after a fire than before.

Opinions expressed by California Observer contributors are their own.



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Opinions expressed by California Observer contributors are their own.