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Woolsey Fire Burn Area Braces For Rain, Possible Flooding And Mudslides

MALIBU (CBSLA) – Another round of rain is expected to move through the Southland Wednesday night into Thursday, bringing with it the threat of mudslides and flooding to the fragile Woolsey, Hill and Thomas fire burn areas.

Residents in the Malibu area who were forced to flee their homes during the Woolsey Fire were advised to prepare for the possibility they would have to evacuate again.

Woolsey Fire Burn Area Braces For Rain
A map shows the potential for flooding and mudslides in Woolsey and Hills fire burn areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties from an incoming storm. Nov. 27, 2018. (City of Malibu)

At this point, forecasters only expect the approaching storm to cause minor mud flows and flooding, but that could change. Emergency operation leaders in Malibu are planning for the worst case scenario.

"Due to an increased probability of mud and debris flows in these fire areas, it is important to plan and prepare," the city said in a statement Tuesday. "Prepare for lack of water, power and natural gas, non-functional traffic signals, and roads that may be impassable.

The low-pressure system which is coming out of the Gulf of Alaska and will move across the Central Coast could bring anywhere from 0.75 inches to 2 inches of rain to the coasts and valleys, according to the National Weather Service.

Woolsey Fire damage
A bridge destroyed by the Woolsey Fire in Cornell, an unincorporated community in the Santa Monica Mountains. Nov. 28, 2018. (CBS2)

Showers will likely begin in Ventura County during the evening commute, CBS2 Meteorologist Danielle Gersh said.

"By tonight, after dinner time, that rain will really start becoming widespread into about midnight," Gersh said. "We'll have steady rain, overnight, into tomorrow morning. We'll start to see some heavier bands pushing their way through."

According to Caltrans, the Pacific Coast Highway and scorched hillsides in canyon areas which have no vegetation to slow debris flow or flooding are particularly vulnerable to debris flows.

Decker Road in Malibu remains closed between the Pacific Coast Highway and Mulholland Highway.


To see the latest L.A. County road closures, click here.

One Agoura woman told CBS2 that her family is considering evacuating prior to the arrival of the storm because the only road out of her area is Mullholland Highway, and her family does not want to get trapped by potential mud flows.

"We're gonna be stuck here, so maybe we should move out tonight or tomorrow morning," she wondered.

NWS meteorologist Curt Kaplan said rainfall rates are not expected to reach a half-inch per hour, which is what would trigger major debris flows in the Woolsey and Hill burn areas. The Thomas Fire burn area, now in its second year without vegetation, is somewhat more vulnerable, forecasters said.

Residents can pick up free sandbags, sand and shovels at any L.A. County Fire station in the Malibu area.

The Woolsey Fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the area of Alfa Road and East Street, south of Simi Valley. On Nov. 9, it jumped the south side of the 101 Freeway at Chesebro Road near Calabasas and began spreading into Malibu. The fire charred nearly 97,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,500 structures was responsible for three deaths.

Meanwhile, in Orange and Riverside counties, voluntary evacuation orders had been issued in the Holy fire burn area. Click here for details.

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