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Your Questions About The California Mudslides, Answered

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At least 17 people have died and several remain missing following the powerful mudslides that swept through the Southern California community of Montecito earlier this week. 

It’s hard to grasp that such a deadly tragedy could strike an area that was just scorched by the largest wildfire in recorded state history, but the two disasters are linked.

Here’s what you should know about the crisis unfolding:

What are mudslides, and why are they so dangerous?

Mudslides, referred to as debris flows by scientists, occur on hillsides and steep slopes when heavy rains pummel the soil, loosening and liquifying it into a fast-moving mud dragged down hillsides by gravity.

That deluge engulfs the loose debris, trees and boulders in its path, becoming a barrage of detritus powerful enough to wipe out entire communities downstream.

U.S. Geological Survey.’ data-reactid=”12″>The flows can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Mudflow and its path of damage in Montecito, California, on Wednesday. (Matt Udkow/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via Reuters)

“Debris flows can be lethal because of their rapid onset, high speed of movement and the fact that they can incorporate large boulders and other pieces of debris,” the USGS explains. “They can move objects as large as houses in their downslope flow or can fill structures with a rapid accumulation of sediment and organic matter. They can affect the quality of water by depositing large amounts of silt and debris.”

anchor soil in its place. The roots of trees that are still standing were often killed in the wildfires and not as secure in the ground, allowing them to be swept up into the mudslide. ‘ data-reactid=”28″>Wildfires wipe hillsides clean of vegetation that would typically anchor soil in its place. The roots of trees that are still standing were often killed in the wildfires and not as secure in the ground, allowing them to be swept up into the mudslide. 

Wildfires also create “burn scars” in which the ground is so scorched it becomes hydrophobic. Instead of being absorbed into the soil, the water slicks off the hill and picks up loose topsoil and debris. This phenomenon is worsened by the lack of trees, which would typically catch rain as it falls and slow its path to the ground. 

Debris flows with the mud in Montecito. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via Reuters)

emerged Sunday, meteorologists warned that mudslides could develop and become treacherous. ‘ data-reactid=”44″>When a forecast of heavy rain in the region emerged Sunday, meteorologists warned that mudslides could develop and become treacherous. 

Why weren’t people more prepared?

“disaster fatigue” might not take the emergency alerts seriously, and officials chose not to send out emergency alerts to cellphones until after the flooding had begun.’ data-reactid=”47″>Many people in the mudslides’ path had just returned home after being forced to evacuate during the fires. Worried residents facing “disaster fatigue” might not take the emergency alerts seriously, and officials chose not to send out emergency alerts to cellphones until after the flooding had begun.

just got swept away,” her son, Hayden Gower, told KSBY.  ‘ data-reactid=”63″>“I told her to stay on the second floor, but she went downstairs and opened the door and just got swept away,” her son, Hayden Gower, told KSBY.  

How does this mudslide stack up to others?

These Southern California mudslides will likely go down as some of the worst in recent state history.

the worst in U.S. history. The disaster claimed more than 40 lives and dozens of homes and cut off a main roadway in the area for months. ‘ data-reactid=”67″>The 2014 mudslides in Oso, Washington, about 60 miles north of Seattle, are regarded as among the worst in U.S. history. The disaster claimed more than 40 lives and dozens of homes and cut off a main roadway in the area for months. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Source: https://www.yahoo.com/news/questions-california-mudslides-answered-013727053.html




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