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Santa Cruz County Public Works: Evacuations are the only way to deal with debris flow this winter

Debris Flow concerns in Santa Cruz County

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) Experts are sending a clear message to fire affected areas of Santa Cruz County: debris flow or landslides are imminent. Fire scorched area’s near watersheds and along steep terrain are most at risk when the first heavy rain pours in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Timely evacuations are the only way to prevent disaster to residents in some of the areas most at risk, according to the Department of Public Works.

Along the Highway 9 corridor, and near watersheds in Bonny Doon and Davenport provide some of the greatest risks. Those who live in those fire affected areas want to know what they can do to protect their property.

“What to do with burnt trees? Should they come up? Do we rake the soil to make it less hydrophobic?” Bonny Doon resident Sean Conley wonders.

However, flood control experts say removing trees, or trying to form barriers, can’t stop debris flow.

“The fire itself created water repellent layer beneath the surface of the soil so what tends to happen is the rain can percolate down, hit the water repellent layer, and that slab of soil can move down the slope as a mudslide,” Flood Control Manager Mark Strudley said.

A sobering warning for Santa Cruz is the 2018 deadly mudslides that followed the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara County, which is why Santa Cruz County is now creating a detailed evacuation plan ahead of rain that could be only a month away.

“Where we can have safe areas to stage emergency response vehicles...and we’re also looking at setting up shelter locations, because when we evacuate these people they’re going to need some place to go,” Assistant Public Works Director Kent Edler said.

Geologists are mapping areas that could be most at risk for debris flow. The Department of Public Works said that should be finished by the end of the week.

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Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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