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Heavy rain over Dixie Fire burn scar triggers mudslides, closes highway

SF Gate logo SF Gate 10/24/2021 Amy Graff
FILE: A helicopter prepares to drop water on the Dixie fire in Aug. 20, 2021. © Ty O'Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket Via Getty Images

FILE: A helicopter prepares to drop water on the Dixie fire in Aug. 20, 2021.

Heavy rain over the Dixie Fire burn scar triggered debris flows and mudslides Sunday morning, the National Weather Service said.

Rain rates of 0.4 inch to 0.7 inch per hour were recorded this morning, and rates over 1 inch an hour are possible, weather service meteorologist Katrina Hand said.

"We're still seeing pretty high rain rates over that area, and that's expected to continue for a decent portion of today," Hand said. 

In the Dixie Fire burn area, a debris flow closed Highway 70 near Jarbo Gap, the weather service said. 

A debris flow is a moving mass of loose mud, sand, soil, rock and water that travels down a slope with the help of gravity. A debris flow can overwhelm homes and vehicles in its path. Areas recently burned by wildfires are particularly susceptible to flash floods and debris flows during rainstorms.

The weather service's Sacramento office said debris flows were likely Sunday in recent burn scars, especially on steep hillsides.

"If you are near a burn scar, it may be too late to evacuate," the weather service said. "Do not attempt to cross a debris flow. Take shelter in the highest floor of your home."

The Dixie Fire burned across five counties — Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama — this summer, reaching nearly 1 million acres in size and becoming the second largest wildfire in California history.

A flash flood and debris flow warning was issued Sunday morning for the Dixie Fire region. "Heavy rain is starting to move in and this will cause debris flows within the Dixie Fire," the weather service's Sacramento office said at about 6 a.m. The warning is in effect through 3 a.m. Monday with rainfall rates of up to an inch an hour expected.

A flash flood and debris flow warning was also issued for the Caldor Fire burn scar just just of South Lake Tahoe.



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