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Rainstorm heading to Southern California raises mudslide concerns [Updated]

October 12, 2009 |  7:56 am

Rain and wind are headed to Southern California, raising fears of mudslides in mountain areas hit hard  by recent brush fires.

A storm is expected in the region Tuesday, with showers possibly beginning later today. Right now, temperatures are in the low 60s in downtown Los Angeles, said meteorologist Jamie Meier of the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

A downpour is expected Tuesday night and into Wednesday, and that has weather experts worried about possible mudslides in areas recently burned in wildfires, including the Station fire in the San Gabriel Mountains. The fire burned 250 square miles in August and September, leaving hillsides barren and increasing the risk of debris flows.

“It does pose a pretty big threat for the burn areas,” Meier said. “A lot of the drainages below the Station fire are at pretty big risk for mud and debris flows.”

[Updated at 11:20 a.m.: La Cañada Flintridge resident Olivia Brown called her neighborhood ground zero for mudslides. She lives in a one-story stucco house near the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and Earnslow Drive.

"All that is supposed to come down," said Brown, 44, pointing to the steep terrain rising behind the home. "There are some big boulders up there. And we've had daily landslides since the fires. This is ground zero right here."]

The U.S. Geological Survey released a report last week warning that major mudslides are likely this year in Pacoima Canyon, Arroyo Seco, Big Tujunga Canyon and other areas. The storm is expected to leave the area late Wednesday and sunny skies are expected to return by late Thursday. Temperatures could climb back into the 80s by the weekend, weather forecasters said.

Meier said there was an 80% chance that rain would fall Tuesday night. One to 2 inches are expected in the coastal plain and 2 to 4 inches in the foothills and mountains.

Temperatures likely will reach highs in the upper 60s during the storm, which is low for this time of year, Meier said. But they should rise to the high 80s by the weekend, he said.

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz

How mudslides form after a fire

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