Map identifies North Bay flood risk zones in burn scar areas

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 05:45PM
Despite the lack of rain this month, storm preparations in the North Bay have been underway following the devastating wildfires in October.


KENWOOD, Calif. - Despite the lack of rain this month, storm preparations in the North Bay have been underway following the devastating wildfires in October.

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The burn scar areas are prone to flooding due to the thick, heavy debris left behind.

Lou Geissler's Kenwood home of more than 70 years was spared in the wildfires. The fire threat might be over now but another concern looms.

"Flooding occasionally has been a problem but not inside the house," said Lou Geissler.

Sonoma Creek runs just feet from his property so he thought it best to be prepared with flood insurance.

That preparation is going to be critical this winter season. County officials want other residents in burn scar areas to heed warnings.

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"There are several houses and residents down below that are of concern that we want to make sure are safe," said Jay Jasperse, chief engineer with Sonoma County Water Agency.

Multiple agencies have worked together to identify areas prone to flash floods, as well as mud and debris flows.

Volunteers at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park have been working for weeks to clear the trails and streams of debris that would wash down the creek to downstream communities. "We've cut down some tress, we've cut down some branches that have been in the river," said volunteer and nearby resident Bob O'brien.

Erosion control measures are in place but given the vast scale of what's been left charred, it's impossible to stabilize the entire canyon. So officials are working on a warning system that alerts residents of dangerous water levels.

"They should be aware of their surroundings and watching the creeks themselves," said Jasperse.

"I'm glad they're talking about it but I think they have thought under control," said a calm Geissler. "I'm not extremely worried, if we get an excessive amount of rain all at one time, then that could be a problem."

In a worst-case scenario, people would need to be evacuated - nothing new for these residents who have already been through so much.

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on the North Bay fires.
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