Weather

Maps show where deadly debris flows are likely to happen near Redding

‘I would leave.’ When rains come, here’s the risk burned California areas face

Areas in Shasta County burned by the Carr Fire in 2018 are prone to another risk when the rainy season starts. Scientists explain why wildfire-burned hillsides can't absorb as much water, and why debris flows and flooding are more likely to happen.
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Areas in Shasta County burned by the Carr Fire in 2018 are prone to another risk when the rainy season starts. Scientists explain why wildfire-burned hillsides can't absorb as much water, and why debris flows and flooding are more likely to happen.

As the rainy season nears in Northern California, areas burned by the summer’s massive wildfires are poised to launch flash floods of mud and ash soup on low-lying lands.

This is because the fires bake the soil surface so that it becomes non-absorbent, or, in scientific terms, hydrophobic. When heavy winter rains hit, the water cannot penetrate the burned soil, and instead rolls downhill — carrying boulders and trees along with it.

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Data from the U.S. Geological Survey can show which fire-scarred hillsides are believed to be at risk for debris flows.

These maps show where the risk is highest from three major fires that burned near Redding in the summer of 2018 — the Carr, Delta and Hirz fires.

Where the risk is highest

Some areas burned by the fires have more than an 80 percent likelihood of a debris flow in a high-intensity storm.
Debris flow probability in intense storm in huge wildfire perimeters near Redding

Source: USGS


What it looks like near Redding

The Redding neighborhoods burned in the Carr fire are in moderate danger of debris flows in a high-intensity rainstorm.
Debris flow danger due to Carr Fire in Redding

Source: USGS


The threat to Interstate 5

The Delta fire closed Interstate 5 near Dunsmuir for several days. Now the freeway must contend with debris flows – several segments traverse high-risk areas for debris flows.
Debris flow danger map to I-5 above Redding from Delta Fire damage

Source: USGS


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