VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - With Ventura County still in recovery mode in the wake of the Thomas fire, homeowners remain on high alert once again -- this time for possible floods and mudslides.
Janet Lanning is just one of many resident living near the hillsides of Ventura who dodged the Thomas fire. Now she’s worried about the winter rains.
“There has been so much devastation so we are concerned about sudd, ash and things like that coming down and nothing to hold it up,” Lanning said.
Burned areas from Santa Paula to Santa Barbara affected by the Thomas fire are extremely susceptible to debris flow and flooding.
“Once the fire rolls through then we change the composite of the surface layer on the ground," said James O'Tousa, the Ventura County Geologist. "That composition changes so that the water doesn’t soak in like it would on a normal year without a fire. It actually runs off immediately and what it carries is the ashes left by the fire and those materials tend to bulk up a channel and clog it.”
Ventura County Public Works Watershed Protection District says mud, water, and debris are projected to double in all flood channels, creeks, and major waterways during this year's winter rainfall.
Now officials are working against the clock, removing as much debris as possible before the rain.
“Some of the action that we are doing here today is basically clearing the vegetation," said Sergio Vargas from Watershed Protection District. "We are making sure we provide a debris barrier so that we can stop some of the debris and minimize the potential of blockage in the system.”
This could help eliminate the flooding concerns, but many other issues still lie ahead.
O’Tousa says it’s not a matter of if, but when mudslides will occur.
“We are worried about debris flows coming down the canyons and it actually flowing straight into homes,” O'Tousa said.
Officials strongly suggest that homeowners get flood insurance and prepare accordingly.
For more information about County of Ventura recovery efforts and what you can do to protect yourself, click the Rain Ready button on the Ventura County Recovers website.