SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — With predictions of a potentially strong El Nino, the change from drought-starved hills scorched by fire to sudden rain has California worried about the threat of mudslides.
Scientists are projecting that it could be one of the strongest on record, and potentially bring heavy rains to Northern California from January through March. They caution the projections aren’t forecasts and the rain could come in November or December.READ MORE: 'Fundamentally Undemocratic': Democratic Lawmakers Push For Recall Reform
That kind of heavy rain has the state worried about flooding and mudslides in burn scars from massive fires.
Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service say they aren’t taking chances on whether the weather provides relief from California’s drought.
“These fires, particularly the Valley Fire and the Butte, burned very, very hot, that pretty much scorches the land, that means there is nothing left but the bare dirt,” said Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff.
The ground where the fires burned is almost like cement, allowing water to roll right off of it. If heavy rain comes, that could cause serious flooding.READ MORE: East Sacramento Intersection Transforming Into Sac State ‘University Village’
“If the rain hits, they need to be watching out for possible flooding in those areas,” she said.
Cal Fire crews have been busy reducing the flood risk. Crews on the Rocky Fire are putting straw on a fire break leftover after the blaze. The straw is like a speed bump to slow water rushing down the hill.
“If it washes off of a hillside like that, it can take dirt, rocks, and plants with it,” she said.
It’s already happened, even before the really heavy rain. A road was covered in dirt after a June mudslide rolled down the barren slope of a King fire burn scar.MORE NEWS: Hamilton Debuts In Sacramento Bringing Thousands To New Performing Arts Center
Cal Fire has been busy removing burned material from homes, too. The worry is heavy rain will wash toxins into streams that eventually drain into the reservoirs we drink out of.