I received an interesting FEMA newsletter today warning about the potential threat to areas across the United States from the El Niño weather patterns. The newsletter also shared tips people can take to be safer in the event of an emergency. How does this rainy weather system affect communities where wildfire risks are a concern? Torrential rain systems can cause mudslides and flooding, damaging watersheds and homes in areas that have been previously impacted by wildfire. Even small amounts of rain in areas heavily impacted by a wildfire can cause erosion problems where topsoil is washed away. In order to get an idea of the intensity of a flash flood after a wildfire, check out video from the US Army Corps of Engineers Albuquerque District's YouTube channel. It shows a flash flood that occurred after the Las Conchas Fire of 2011, demonstrating how devastating heavy rains after a wildfire can be.
According to FEMA's newsletter, “For the next several months, many areas in the United States are at an increased flood risk from El Niño as a direct result of drought and wildfires. Disasters don’t always occur when families are together in one place. Now is the time to put together a family communication plan and talk with your family about ways to contact each other during an emergency, and designate a safe meeting spot. You can also plan ahead by knowing official evacuation routes, and keeping important papers in a safe, waterproof place. Additional tips and resources on how to stay safe and prepare are available at www.ready.gov.
More information is available about El Niño at www.fema.gov/el-Niño. The tab labeled Additional Resources include links to resources from various federal agencies including NOAA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of the Interior, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
Many communities have shared with us that by learning to become Firewise Communities, they have also become more resilient when it comes to other catastrophic weather events.