10 Jan The Wall Street Journal: At least 13 killed in Southern California mudslides following heavy rain
LOS ANGELES — First came the wildfires, which prompted mass evacuations across Southern California last month. Then came the rains, and the mud. Thousands more evacuated again, and at least 13 people were killed in mudslides Tuesday.
Mudslides loosened by torrential rain caused havoc around the nation’s second-most populous region, washing away homes and cars and shutting down freeways. Hardest hit was the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito, where all the fatalities were reported along with about two dozen injuries after mudslides roared down from a mountain denuded of vegetation in the recent wildfire, and sweeping away at least five homes.
The one-two punch of fire and slides is a common occurrence in California, where hills stripped of grass and other vegetation by flames in the fall are less able to soak up the winter rains that follow. Rains were expected to taper off by late Tuesday night, forecasters said.
In the kind of steep terrain that surrounds Los Angeles, mud and debris can begin flowing within just 15 minutes of a downpour — rushing down the mountain as fast as 50 mph, said Dennis Staley, a landslide specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. The threat of mudslides to populated areas has grown markedly, he said, because so many more people have moved into fire-prone zones in California and other mountain states.
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