Southern California is cleaning up after massive landslides this past weekend destroyed homes and washed away cars in small mountain communities.
Tropical Storm Kay brought strong winds and torrential rain to Southern California last week, giving the area some respite from the region’s ongoing drought and recent heat waves. But it also triggered landslides in the Forest Falls, Oak Glen, and Yucaipa communities in the San Bernardino mountains. The area is fire-scarred, creating the conditions for the destructive debris flow, the Guardian explained. Displaced trees, mud, and rocks damaged roads and filled homes with several feet of muck, per ABC News.
It was especially dangerous for commuters. Over the weekend, dozens of people were rescued north of Los Angeles after the landslides trapped them in their cars, NBC News reported. The heavy rainfall also caused some road closures in the Death Valley National Park. And though some residents have been evacuated and several roads have opened up again, rescuers were still searching for a missing Forest Falls resident as of Wednesday, The Sun reported.
Sadly, Southern California will likely experience more destructive landslides in the near future. A study published earlier this year found that if we don’t curb emissions, we’ll see an increased frequency of wildfires and heavy rainfall events, a combination that can lead to landslides. More fires mean more burn scars and areas without recovered vegetation throughout California.
Oak Glen and Forest Falls, two of the affected communities, are near burn scars caused by the 2020 Apple Fire and El Dorado Fire, the LA Times reported. And even though the flames have long been put out, the area is still affected. Without vegetation like shrubs and trees in a flooded area, there’s nothing to stop the flow of mud and debris from turning into a destructive landslide. It takes years and even decades for areas to recover vegetation after an especially bad wildfire.