Floods, mudslides threaten Big Sur


These are the flames that threatened Big Sur just six weeks ago. Today the barren, steep terrain that remains poses new concerns: flooding and mudslides

"When the water hits that it's going to slurry that's what they call hydrophobic soil below that won't absorb water so it will just wash that material off," said Chief Frank Pinney from the Big Sur Fire Brigade.

In all the Indians and Basin fires scorched 240,000 acres, and 24 percent of that is considered severely burned.

Now state and federal teams made up of hydrologists, biologists, and engineers are identifying problem areas before the winter rains hit.

Close to 40 people are working on a ground assessment that will take about two weeks. Then the Forest Service will make recommendations aimed at mitigating problems that would most directly affect water supplies and populated areas.

"What we've been looking at is all the downstream values at risk, that's everything from highway one to homes and businesses," said Art Morrison from the U.S. Forest Service.

In some cases, culverts or roads will be put in to redirect potential water flows. The state acted quickly in reopening Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for the summer season but most of the hiking trails are off limits.

"It was largely determined to be unsafe so we closed all trails that would be a hazard for anyone being out in the wilderness," said State Parks engineer Joan Carpenter.

There are already new signs of life in that wilderness and renewed activity in the Big Sur business district but locals say they are organizing themselves to prepare for what winter may bring.

"There will be some steps taken to try and give early warning if slides do impinge on homes and businesses," said Pinney.

For now there are two groups of people visiting Big Sur -- those looking for potential trouble and those enjoying the calm between fire and rain.

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