Rim Fire Flash Floods?
Sonora, CA - The rain is already falling in Tuolumne County and now the concerns turns from flames to floods. The Rim Fire BAER Team working on the soil and watershed issues posed by the Rim Fire are warning residents about heavy rain storms that could turn into flash floods.
BAER put out this report about the possible dangers and how to prepare:
The Rim Fire started on August 17 and burned in steep, rugged canyons on the Stanislaus National Forest and the Yosemite National Park. The wildfire increased the potential for increased flooding, mud and debris flows that could impact ranches, structures, roads, and other infrastructure within, adjacent to, and downstream from the burned area. Winter in the Sierra Nevada region can bring heavy rain storms and residents and visitors should remain alert to possible flooding when travelling along roads downstream from the burned area of the Rim Fire.
One of the most effective BAER strategies is interagency coordination with local cooperators who assist affected businesses, homes, and landowners prepare for rain events. The Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) work together and coordinate with other federal and local agencies, and counties that assist private landowners in preparing for increased run-off and potential flooding.
Federal assistance to private landowners is administered by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program(www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp/). NRCS works with local governments (sponsors) to implement emergency measures in the wake of natural disasters to safeguard lives and property. NRCS and the local sponsor prepare damage survey reports for eligible sites on private lands adjacent to and downstream from affected areas. NRCS uses these reports, along with the BAER team's assessment report, to develop emergency measures to reduce the impacts from potential increased water and mud flows, and assist sponsors to implement recommended emergency measures. (www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet?FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1045263.pdf ).
Multiple agencies work with BAER teams and look at the full scope and scale of the situation to reduce the potential threats to human life and safety, and property; however, BAER emergency stabilization actions on federal lands cannot prevent all of the potential flooding or soil erosion impacts, especially after wildfires change the landscape.
It is important that residents take steps to protect themselves and their property from flooding and mudflows:
- For their safety, communities need to monitor local weather reports and public safety bulletins, local road closures, emergency notifications, weather alerts, follow local county and city advisories, and act accordingly.
- Use a "weather radio" or smart phone "weather app" that monitors "all hazards" alerts issued by the NOAA-National Weather Service (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/).
- Prepare for rainstorms by being prepared to evacuate if county or city emergency officials determine that flooding and mudflows are expected which could pose an increased threat to life and property.
- Know and be alert to environmental signs of dangerous weather conditions and be prepared to take action that can save lives.
- Understand that all canyons within the Rim fire area can produce flash flooding.
- At first sign of a storm, even if it's not right over you, the storm may be up-stream from your location, or if you find yourself in a flood, climb to safety (seek higher ground).
The complete report will be up on the Stanislaus National Forest Service website in the next couple of days.
Written by Tracey Petersen