Emergency crews prepare for threat of mudslides

BANNING, Calif. - With a rainstorm moving towards Riverside County, emergency officials are preparing for potentially dangerous conditions in recently burned areas.  Cal Fire, Caltrans and other agencies are keeping a close eye on the storm clouds, because torrential rain could create flash floods and mudslides in the mountain communities burned by the Mountain and Silver fires.  "Dirt turning to mud and coming down the hill and causing mud flow into residential areas or blocking roads, taking out utilities such as electrical lines," said Cal Fire Chief John Hawkins.  "It's definitely a concern." 

Fire crews created channels to divert runoff on the hillside during their cleanup as well as taking other safety measures.  "We also have deployed sand and sandbags at locations that we think are most likely to see mud flows," said Hawkins. 

Those areas include Lake Elsinore and Lakeland Village.  

The other concern is for drivers.  Caltrans worked quickly to repair parts of Highway 243 burned in the fire.  Now, it's surrounded by black hills and could be danger of mudslides.  

Caltrans sent us this statement: 

"Caltrans typically is on alert 24/7 when there is a threat of inclement weather that may impact the highway facility.  During the monsoon season, we have been aggressive in our strategy of providing additional staff in the High and Low Desert areas for more immediate response when there are storm issues with the state highway system.  Additionally, Caltrans works closely with other agencies to ensure that the highways are safe for the traveling public."

While emergency crews hope to avoid a heavy downpour, the rain does ironically provide some help.  "It will allow new growth to occur, and it won't bring down a mountainside," said Chief Hawkins. 

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