AZUSA, Calif. -- El Niño -- warming of Pacific waters -- is expected to bring a wet and dangerous winter to Southern California. When it comes down, it's not going to stop.
Ed Heinlein is getting ready to battle the 850-foot mountain behind his home in Azuza, California. He's built steel-reinforced impact walls to slow down mudslides, a giant holding pen for mud, and installed cameras so he can see it coming.
"When it comes down, it's like a freight train and it hits the house right there. If you do not stop the building mud flow, it will implode the house or knock it to the street out there," Heinlein said.
Heinlein's backyard was filled with mud last year after a light snow.
Yesterday's debris flows were a preview of what's expected to be a wild winter, thanks to El Niño. Record warm Pacific Ocean water is likely to fuel large storms.
Mudslides could be massive because a historic wildfire season and drought have killed the vegetation that holds hillsides in place and left soil charred.
John Thornton of the U.S. Forest Service demonstrated how charred soil won't absorb water. Rain will simply flow downhill. When asked how long the standing water in his demonstration sat on charred soil without being absorbed, Thornton said "...about 15 minutes."
Giant debris basins have been cleaned out to collect mud, but nearly 1,000 homes in nearby Glendora are still threatened.
Speaking about the level of concern about future mudslides, city engineer Jerry Burke said, "Slopes are very steep. So, we are really concerned if we got that torrential downpour that didn't stop. We could see large debris flows."
That's why Ed Heinlein has spent nearly $100,000 to protect his house.
When asked why he doesn't just move, Heinlein said, "Well, who would buy this piece of property? Who's going to move in here? We'd lose everything."
He knows he may still lose everything by staying.