Post Butte Fire Hydrology Analysis – Anticipating and Mitigating Flooding and Mudslide Risks
Butte Fire, Calaveras County, CA – The Carr place in Calaveras County, CA on the Butte Fire is devastated. We oriented the crew with paper maps. Dr. Lee showed me, Tina and Carson his hydrological concerns, especially points where he expected flooding to create dams, then lakes, then blow outs. Then Carson and Dr. Lee transferred their points of focus onto a computer so everyone would have the same access to the information in the field. “The Carr property is 100 acres that’s steeper than a cow’s face,” he said. Tina works on the engineering and water flow that affects infrastructure like roads and bridges. The old hydrologist and the young hydrological engineer bring a lot to the table. Tina did a tour in Iraq building water systems and helping with flooding and other water issues. Dr. Lee taught thousands of students how to anticipate peak flows and 100-year flood events. It’s all just theory until we actually get out on the ground and see for ourselves. It doesn’t take long to see how the ground lays, where the water will go, and how easily the burned soils will move off the property in overland flow events in a rain storm.
Mr. Carr personal story is a hard one. He bought the land long ago and was building a retirement home on the site. The reasons he loved the land, the big trees, the wonderful views, all of it disappeared in an afternoon. It’s hard to discuss losses with a man who is grieving, but it also helps him build some hope that he can rehabilitate the land. I was able to help Mr. Carr understand what we were doing and how our work would reestablish key elements of his property. One of the hardest things is that bark beetles are attracted to trees weakened by fire. Trees that may have survived the fire effects are often killed by beetles. We completed our initial analysis and then moved on to the next property, more than 500 on the Butte Fire alone.