Look Out For the Debris Flows When You Go To California!

Some of us are California-dreaming, though we may forget that a lot of things must be taken into consideration when it comes to California’s landscape. Some parts of California are prone to mudslides. Scientists refer to these events as debris flows.

This last month, California saw deadly mudslides that killed about 21 people and injured many more. The neighborhood of Montecito, recently ravaged by wildfires, experienced the brunt of this natural event.

There are very narrow water channels in the hills that surround Montecito. On a normal day, these channels are usually about a meter wide. However, when a storm pours water on the area, these channels become raging rivers of mud, water and debris. This is exactly what happened in January of 2018.

What exacerbated this natural phenomena was the fact that the landscape had dramatically changed from the recent wildfire. Much of the living flora that was holding the soil together was destroyed, making the soil more vulnerable to erosion and being slippy. If you look at aerial views of Montecito before and after the wildfire, you will see a significant reduction in the amount of trees and plant life. Of course, there are still trees and plants around, but not as many as before. If the wildfire didn’t happen, the rain that fell on Montecito would not have caused so much damage, and people may not have died.

Experts on landslides say that these kinds of events are unpredictable, and that you can’t really blame local officials for anything.