As weather forecasts had stated, a storm hit Southern California on March 10 (Wednesday), resulting in mudslides in Orange County, California. The mudslides left at least four residents trapped in their homes in the areas affected by wildfires last year.

The Orange County Fire Authority said firefighters were called to rescue the residents trapped in Silverado Canyon near Irvine. No immediate injuries were reported. The fire department also added that mud entered six to seven homes and damaged nine vehicles. Shannon Widor, an Orange County Public Works spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times that two-three feet deep mud covered half-a-mile of a road.

Ambrose Jimenez, a Silverado Canyon resident, said that he heard rumbling around 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Upon looking outside, he saw boulders sliding down the mountain outside his home. He added, “The mud just kept coming and coming.”

On Wednesday morning, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for Silverado Canyon, and later, for Modjeska and Williams Canyon. The order remained in effect till Thursday (March 11) morning.

In 2020, hundreds of wildfires burned thousands of square miles of vegetation and land in California, leaving behind barren and scorched hillsides vulnerable to mudslides (also called debris flow). A mudslide is a dangerous, fast-moving type of landslide. Short, intense storms typically trigger these mudslides, sending a wall of ash, soil, rocks, vegetation, homes, and cars careening downhill, destroying everything in its path.

The general area of Irvine received up to half-a-inch of rain overnight and during the early morning hours. In October 2020, a hazard assessment issued predicted that the area faces a 60% chance of debris flow during rainfall of an inch or above over 15 minutes. Experts have been warning that several states face the threat of deadly slides. In January 2021, due to mudslide fears, Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties’ residents were evacuated.

A United States Geological Survey research study released in February predicted that post-fire landslides may happen every year in Southern California, and the region can expect major landslides every 10-13 years. The study also revealed that with climate change causing intense rainfall (and flooding), landslides capable of damaging 40 or more structures could become more frequent.

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