‘So far, so good’ – Camp Fire area escapes debris flows as flood watch expires

A Thanksgiving rainstorm hasn’t brought dangerous debris flows to the Camp Fire burn zone, and officials let a flash flood watch for the area expire Friday afternoon.

Forecaster Hannah Chandler-Cooley of the National Weather Service said heavy afternoon rains forecast for Paradise and other towns affected by the Camp Fire didn’t materialize as expected, although rain was expected to continue through the night. The storm was expected to peter out sometime early Saturday.

Craig Shoemaker, another weather service forecaster, said Northern California can expect dry weather Sunday and Monday, “and then it’s going to get active again,” with significant rain and snow expected.

While the rain has put out much of what was still burning in the Paradise area — the Camp Fire was 95 percent contained, and air quality in the region was now listed as “good” — officials have been on high alert for potentially dangerous debris flows of the type that killed 21 people in Montecito in January following the Thomas Fire.

Search and rescue team search for victims of the Camp Fire at the Skyway Villa Mobile Home Park in Paradise. Damage claims have left state officials declaring a Merced County insurance company insolvent. Hector Amezcua

In addition, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea has said he’s worried the rains could hinder or endanger the hundreds of rescue workers still searching for human remains. At least 84 people were killed in the fire.

Kelly Huston, deputy director at the state Office of Emergency Services, said nearly 200 workers from Cal Fire and the California Conservation Corps have been taking preventive measures, such as installing sandbags and “waddle” — long tubes of straw-like materials — to reduce erosion.

“So far, so good,” Huston said. “They’re seeing what you’d expect to be the normal erosion.”

Shoemaker said the Chico-Paradise area had received 2 to 4 inches of rain so far. The Sacramento area has gotten just under 1 inch.

He said some of the Sierra ski resorts received as much as 2 feet of snow, although Friday’s temperatures turned warmer and the snow elevations started falling. Many spots, such as Blue Canyon, were now getting rain instead of snow Friday morning. He said the upcoming storm forecast for Tuesday should bring considerably more snow than the current storm.

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