It was a morning Jonathan Henning will never forget.
The Casitas Springs resident work up early on the morning of December 5th to find a sea of flames in the mountains east of the community. He says during a half hour period, the Thomas Fire literally swept through the community.
Firefighters and residents teamed up to stopped the embers as the blaze moved east to west across Highway 33, on its path towards Santa Barbara. While the community came through the Thomas fire largely untouched, it’s now facing a new threat.
As you look at the mountains above Nye Road, you can see the almost vertical slopes have been stripped bare, setting the stage for flash flooding and mudslides. Ventura County officials say geologists have identified 10 flooding danger zones in the wake of the Thomas Fire, including this area.
Some are new problem areas, and others are already existing trouble spots which have become worse because of the blaze. Kevin McGowan, the Manager of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Of Emergency Services, says starting next week, there will be a series of community meetings to look at the dangers in specific areas, and to get people thinking about preparedness.
More than 10,000 brochures with information on the potential flood zones, and details on the meetings are going out to property owners in the affected areas this week.
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean says they want people to be prepared for rainfall problems. He admits it can be more difficult to get people to evacuate during rain than a fire because people often don’t feel the same urgency. McGowan says while they use cutting edge technology to figure out when evacuations are necessary, it’s still an imprecise situation. He cautions it may not be how much rain we get, but how quickly and how concentrated it comes. Heavy, focused rainfall during a short period of time led to the death, and destruction in Southern Santa Barbara County last month.
He says while Ventura County came through the January storm without major issues, he points out we are currently in the middle of what’s traditionally the heaviest time of year for rainfall.
Henning admits if they get heavy rain, there's no much they can do, except for get out of the way, and pray.