Environment

Rain Dampens California Wildfire, But Flash Flooding a Risk

ImaGeo iconImaGeoBy Tom YulsmanJul 21, 2013 8:45 PM

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https://twitter.com/ClaremontNow/status/359049961423372288 As the Twitpic above illustrates, slow moving thunderstorms over California's massive Mountain Fire have been dumping up to an inch of rain an hour over the burn area, helping firefighters get a handle on the blaze. About 1.5 inches of rain have already fallen at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway near the fire, and more is on the way. Now at 27,245 acres in size, the fire is 49 percent contained, and firefighters have been making good progress, according to InciWeb, an interagency incident information system. But with all the rain, and with vegetation that would otherwise help to hold water now burned off large swaths of steep terrain, the National Weather Service has issued a flash-flood warning for the area. In fact, it says some flooding may have already occurred:

AT 148 PM PDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR CONTINUED TO INDICATE HEAVY RAIN PRODUCING FLASH FLOODING OVER THE WARNED AREA.

That wording is a little unclear, so I'll be looking for any information and graphics about flooding and I'll share anything I find. 4:00 p.m. MDT | Update: There are in fact some reports of flash flooding and rock slides. The weather service is also warning residents of possible debris flows. Let's hope that the damage from flooding is minimal, that lightning strikes do not ignite new fires, and that firefighters stay safe from erratic winds that can be produced by thunderstorms. Tomorrow, I'll provide some broader context to the fire, including a visual round-up of other blazes that have burned in a partial ring around the greater Los Angeles and San Diego areas this spring and summer. I'll also have a couple of infographics on development in the so-called wildland-urban interface, or WUI. And I'll be interviewing Ray Rasker, Executive Director of Headwaters Economics, about recent research his organization has done on development in the WUI. So please check back.

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