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Residents of the Modjeska, Silverado, and Williams canyons are able to return home following a series of evacuations earlier this week due to mudslides that buried roads under as much as three feet of mud. 

In a 10 a.m. Friday tweet, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced that evacuation orders in all three canyons were downgraded to voluntary orders, writing that members of OC Public Works would continue working to clear roadways and drains. 

Those wishing to return must have proof of residency, and with more rain expected this afternoon officials are urging caution for anyone who chooses to go home.

According to a Thursday tweet from OC Public Works, staff are expected to work through the end of the week to clean off the roads and drains. Multiple roads into Silverado Canyon remain closed according to the sheriff’s tweet.

So far, officials have reported nine cars and at least six homes were damaged by the mud flow, but the exact levels of damage were not disclosed because it was not yet safe to send in building inspectors. Four people trapped in their homes were pulled out by firefighters, but no injuries have been reported. 

The evacuation center at El Modena High School set up by the Red Cross is closing.  

Some of the residents in the canyons have had to evacuate three times in the last six months, as the Bond and Silverado Fires burned through the area in fall of last year. 

Many residents have complained about a lack of communication from public safety agencies, and a 2019 grand jury report found several flaws in interagency communication. While some of those issues have been addressed, communication problems were still one of the biggest hurdles in last year’s wildfire season and they reappeared during the mudslides.

Braun said wireless emergency alerts were sent out to canyon residents, but not everyone received them, a regular problem with poor reception in the canyons that residents complained about following the Bond Fire.  

“We live in the canyons and we didn’t get any advance emergency alerts/texts,” commented Dolly Be on Voice of OC’s Facebook page. 

Nearly all the early information on the fire has come from tweets spread across pages from the Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Fire Authority and OC Public Works. In the early hours, OCFA announced the public works staff would be handling all press inquiries, but when Voice of OC reached out the department’s staff, they were never connected to a spokesperson. 

Following those calls, the OC Sheriff’s put up multiple posts saying they were in “unified command,” between all three agencies, with each group putting out separate alerts that were sometimes retweeted by separate departments. It was nearly 1 p.m. before a press release detailing the evacuation areas was released. 

For more information on the mudslide’s progress on Wednesday, click here


Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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