Rim Fire area vulnerable as rain arrives

By Union Democrat staff November 06, 2013 11:30 am

A storm is set to bring rain to the Mother Lode over the weekend and early next week, providing an early test to post-Rim Fire erosion-control efforts.

The National Weather Service says the looming storm system could disrupt travel and bring mountain snow to the Central Sierra as early as Sunday. Widespread precipitation is most likely for Monday or Tuesday, bringing with it much cooler temperatures and gusty mountain winds, the Weather Service said.

Fall and winter storms are what forest rangers and emergency planners have been preparing for since before the 400-plus-square-mile Rim Fire was even fully contained.

The fire, accidentally started by a hunter on Aug. 17, is California’s third-largest on record. It burned large swaths of once-timbered mountains and river canyons in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

The area is now primed for flooding and debris flows in a big storm.

Trails and roads are at risk of washing away, and there are heightened concerns large timber and mudflows and will clog streams and foul water supplies for cities and farms.

The U.S. Forest Service has rushed to prepare culverts, stabilize roads and trails, and put mulch and straw bales over burned soil to keep it from sliding away in heavy rain. Rangers have closed roads and campgrounds and posted signs to warn of falling rocks and trees.