SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — People who live in the North Bay are keeping a close eye on the storms moving in Monday with many of the areas impacted by October’s deadly fires are at high risk for mudslides and flooding.
Over the last few months, homeowners and city officials in Santa Rosa have been preparing for the rains they knew would come eventually.
The Fountaingrove neighborhood is one the city is particularly worried about. It is a very hilly area that was hit hard by the fires, a combination that leaves it particularly vulnerable to mudslides.
“Our house didn’t burn and I’m very grateful, believe me, But we have our own set of problems to deal with,” resident Michael Fiumara told KPIX 5.
Fiumara’s home was one of only two houses on his street that survived the tubbs fire. Flames came within a few feet of his back door.
“What I’m trying to do is watch out for additional slides,” said Fiumara.
He said ever since the fires burned away the brush, the hillside behind his home has become unstable. Fiumara is worried the heavy rains could lead to a massive mudslide.
“I’m monitoring some of the areas that look like they could move,” said Fiumara.”So what we’ve done is we’ve taken stones and placed them in place, so it doesn’t come down.”
The city of Santa Rosa has done its own work to prepare. Straw barriers were placed around fire-damaged areas to keep debris from running into the streets. Additionally, hydro-seeding was used to get grass growing to stabilize the hillsides and storm drains were cleared out to prevent flooding.
“We’ve done a lot of work over the last several months, but we haven’t really tested the system yet,” said Paul Lowenthal with the Santa Rosa Debris Task Force.
Lowenthal said the city has also worked hard to notify residents in high-risk areas. They’ve put up 30 signs around town and mailed out 3,000 notices to homeowners.
“We’ve done a lot of messaging to the community so they knew the risks of the area,” explained Lowenthal.
Based on the storm forecasts, the city has already scheduled street crews to work through the night Monday in case there are any major problems.
“Based on the conditions we’re expecting to see tomorrow, you will likely see city crews checking those storm drain inlets and making sure the water is flowing like it needs to,” said Lowenthal.
Another concern in Fountaingrove is the storm drains. When this community was developed, they used plastic pipes which burned during the fires, meaning flooding is more likely.
The storm drains in older neighborhoods like Coffey Park were made of concrete or steel, so the city isn’t expecting the same types of problems there.
While city officials had initially expressed some concerns about hazardous chemicals washing into the storm drains and water sheds during the rains after the fires, the EPA made site clean-up a top priority. The city has been monitoring runoff from rain and isn’t seeing contamination so far.