Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Rains Threaten Northern Californian Burn Areas

"Sorely needed" rain is expected in Northern California, but the precipitation could cause more harm and endanger the search for those lost in the wildfires.

At LAT, "Approaching storms raise threat of mudslides in California burn areas."

Also, "Rescuers fear rains will wash away victims’ remains; 870 still missing in California fire":

The cadaver dog alerted to a corner of the charred metal frame, what probably was once the kitchen of a mobile home in Paradise, Calif. Searchers in white jumpsuits walked over, with shovels and gloves, to sift through the debris.

After about 10 minutes, they determined there were no bodies or bones in the rubble — just burned sausages.

For days, hundreds of searchers have been methodically working through the destruction left by the massive Camp fire, looking for clues that someone couldn’t escape, such as a wheelchair or a footprint. They scour places where people may have tried to protect themselves from flames: under a mattress, inside a bathtub.

So far they have discovered 81 bodies — people who died in cars and homes; people outside, probably trying to outrun the flames. But with 870 people still missing and more than 12,600 destroyed homes to comb through, their grim mission is far from over.

“We have so many souls unaccounted for, I believe that this search for remains is going to go on for a long time,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), whose district includes Paradise. “Could be weeks.”

And now, a pair of incoming storms are threatening to hamper recovery efforts. In a worst-case scenario, the downpour could flood the ruins and wash away human remains, leaving authorities unable to find and identify every victim of California’s deadliest wildfire on record. Authorities fear bones could sink underwater, making them harder to spot and drowning any scent that cadaver dogs rely on to find them.

Paradise narrowed its main road by two lanes despite warnings of gridlock during a major wildfire »
Deborah Laughlin last heard from her son and his pregnant wife just after the couple evacuated their Magalia home. It’s been almost two weeks, and she has no idea whether they survived.

“Please don’t tell me he died,” said Laughlin, tears in her eyes, from the cafeteria of Bidwell Junior High School in Chico. “Please.”

She said she is clinging to hope that they’ll be reunited soon. The 63-year-old lost her home in Paradise. She’s afraid of the approaching storms because she knows there are still people who are missing, people who may have died in the fire.

“I’m scared,” she said. “I’m scared they’ll be washed away and people’s remains will never be found.”

Meteorologists say the Camp fire burn scar — which is larger than the city of San Jose — could see up to 6 inches of rain through Saturday, with the heaviest downpour expected overnight Thursday. The forecast has triggered a flash flood watch for possible rock slides and debris flows. Light rain was beginning to fall Wednesday morning in the Sacramento Valley, with stronger showers expected later in the day.

“That rain is going to get in that ash, it’s going to turn into it a paste-like substance,” said Monterey County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Joe Moses, who is helping in the recovery effort. “It’s going to stick to everything and slow things down.”

Officials are preparing for an long, wrenching cleanup...