Orange County’s first major winter storm is triggering mudslides and mandatory evacuations in the Bond Fire burn area Tuesday afternoon.
County sheriff’s department officials made evacuations mandatory midday Tuesday for residents in the Bond Fire burn areas of Silverado, Modjeska and Williams canyons.
The most impacted area is Silverado Canyon according to OCFA Captain Greg Barda at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, who told Voice of OC reporters they’d already had two mudslides in that area and had rescued multiple residents who were trapped.
There’s no estimate on when the mandatory evacuation orders would be lifted as of 1:45 p.m. according to Barda. National Weather Service warnings posted Monday afternoon indicated flash flood risks lasting until 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“We work in partnership with the OC Sheriff’s Department and (evacuation orders) are issued for the safety of those residents,” Barda said in a phone call with Voice of OC. “We understand that people want to get back to their homes…when it becomes safe to allow residents back in the area.”
OC Public Works Department also announced they were picking up a slurry of rocks and mud several feet deep that blocked Silverado Canyon Road just before 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The county has already seen 1-2 inches of rain across much of the region, and up to 4 inches in the canyons.
The heavy rainfall has seen a “significant uptick,” in traffic accidents countywide according to Barda.
Live Weather Map
View Voice of OC’s live weather map below to see current rainfall totals (click the dots on the map), wind speeds, rainfall forecasts, drought conditions and more. (If you cannot see the map below, click here to view).
Map data sources: rainfall totals from OC Public Works and updated every 8-12 minutes, cumulative rain forecast for the next 72-hour period is from the National Weather Service and is updated every hour, weather radar from the National Weather Service shows the most recent 3-hour period, drought conditions are from the U.S. Drought Monitor and are updated weekly, wind forecast for the next 72-hour period is from the National Weather Service and is updated hourly.
Weather Forecast, Rainfall Totals
Coldwater Canyon has received the most rainfall so far with just over 5 inches as of noon Tuesday (up from 1.89 inches at 9 a.m. and 4 inches at noon), according to the National Weather Service’s automated rain gauges.
The totals show most of the county receiving between 1 and 2 inches, but several canyon areas received more than 3 inches. The storm is expected to continue until Tuesday night with advisories stretching until 9 p.m.
Residents were warned of risks of flash floods, wind gusts, thunderstorms and mudslides, with advisories stretching until 9 p.m. Tuesday.
According to a video published by the National Weather Service Monday evening, the snowfall is expected to reach around 3500 feet Tuesday evening, but the only area expected to receive snowfall is around Santiago Peak according to their map.
But the rainfall forced a new mandatory evacuation order for residents near the burn scars from last year’s wildfires out of a fear of mudslides just before noon Tuesday morning.
The Orange County region is specifically advised by the National Weather Service about risks from rainfall – especially in burn areas, wind gusts of 25-35 miles per hour that could reach up to 45 mph, seas at 7-10 feet and risk of thunderstorms that could produce waterspouts and dangerous lightning strikes.
The weather service also warns about the risk of flash floods and debris flows Tuesday with an expectation of half-an-inch of rain per hour, with coastal mountain slopes possibly reaching three-quarters of an inch of rain per hour.
The water could cause rivers, creeks and streams to flood with flash floods and flows of mud and rocks, especially in recent burn areas.
This comes on the heels of Orange County’s tenth driest November on record in the past 127 years with the county seeing about an inch of rain less this year than normal, according to the California Drought Monitor.
The National Weather Service predicts the storm will bring moderate to excessive rainfall over parts of Southern California Tuesday into Wednesday morning. The service says that a “very strong” 160-180 mph jet stream is bringing the storm from southern Alaska down California’s coast and then pushing it across the Colorado Rockies.
Burn Area Evacuations
Orange County’s wildfire burn areas were under voluntary evacuation warnings Monday but were bumped up to mandatory on Tuesday, following warnings of flooding and debris flow in the Bond Fire (Modjeska Canyon, Silverado Canyon and Williams Canyon), issued by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
That center is still open as of noon Tuesday, but it is unclear how long it will remain open for according to sheriff spokesperson Carrie Braun. No one stayed overnight on Monday according to Braun, and she did not have an estimate on how many people had used the evacuation center.
Braun also said the sheriff’s department did door to door notifications last night encouraging residents to evacuate before the rain came, along with reaching out to community groups to get the word out.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, Red Cross officials said they would offer overnight congregate shelter Monday with COVID protocols (masks and social distancing) and that RV and motorhome parking with no hookups would be made available.
“Canyon residents are strongly encouraged to prepare and evacuate now, especially those with disabilities, access and/or functional needs, and canyon residents with large animals,” reads the sheriff’s advisory.
The sheriff’s department lists 714-647-7000 as an evacuation assistance phone line. To report storm-related issues call OC Public Works at 714-955-0200 during normal business hours or 714-955-0333 during alternate hours.
Cold Weather Shelter
The storm has also prompted officials to issue a cold weather emergency shelter plan for 24 hours.
No walk-ups are allowed and the program is only for adults 18 and older, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The agency said they planned to offer two 15-minute pickup time slots Monday afternoon, with no other social media updates as of noon Tuesday.
Irvine city officials sent out an advisory on Monday with information on receiving 10 free pre-filled sandbags at the operations support facility, 6427 Oak Canyon Road from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In a Monday news release, Orange County Fire Authority officials said sand and bags are available for residents throughout the county (locations viewable here). Officials are encouraging residents to bring a shovel to fill bags.
Metrolink’s status website as of noon Tuesday showed service disruptions on the Orange County-Inland Empire route and other service delays in the southern California region.
Metrolink posted just after 8 a.m. Tuesday, passengers of train 809 between Riverside-La Sierra and Irvine can submit to receive reimbursement of up to $50 for booking alternative transit such as Uber, Lyft or a taxi. The agency posted a link to where reimbursement can be requested.
Check the status of OC’s roadways here.
The OC Health Care Agency Tuesday morning posted an advisory for poor water quality along the county’s beaches.
As of 9 a.m. nearly every OC water quality measuring site registered as the bacteria is exceeding state health standards and “may cause illness.” No details of bacteria levels were shown.
Surfline’s reports for Orange County warned of bacteria contamination as well, suggesting surfers stay away from the water for 72 hours following a storm.Surfline Forecaster Matt Kibby posted an update at 6:43 a.m. Tuesday for Huntington State Beach calling it “a stormy mess out there this morning … you’ll want to avoid runoff and drainage areas as water quality is going to be pretty poor.”
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