A winter storm is forecast to strike next week in Southern California that could bring up to 4 inches of rain and result in mudslides or flooding in some wildfire-scarred areas.
Crews were scrambling this week to clean out debris in catch basins and prepare for heavy rains forecast to fall in burn areas Tuesday into Wednesday. The absence of vegetation and roots in burned-out hillsides and canyons makes them more susceptible to mudslides and even landslides, officials said.
"To think that there won't be flooding would be very foolish," Tom Fayram, water resources deputy director for Santa Barbara County Public Works, said in an interview Thursday. "We've actually started while the fire is still burning clearing about 11 debris basins."
The region's first major winter storm could bring rain to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties where the Thomas fire has burned as well as precipitation to residential areas in Los Angeles where other recent blazes have left hillsides bare of vegetation and prone to mudslides and flooding.