After the first round of El Niño-enhanced storms thrashed Southern California earlier this month, the region experienced a taste of what is in store during the active pattern.
El Niño will continue to churn out destructive storms with flooding rainfall and other serious impacts. However, for areas charred by wildfires, the intense stormy pattern means even more trouble.
2015 was one of the most severe fire seasons in California history. From the Lake Fire to the Valley Fire, hundreds of thousands of acres were destroyed and several people were killed.
After a fire burns an area of land, the vegetation roots that help stabilize the soil are destroyed. Debris left behind can be pushed around with ease in heavy rain. Just like ashes after a bonfire, the debris is light.
In an El Niño year, the threat is further enhanced due to the frequent heavy storms.
"Each one can bring a significant threat alone," AccuWeather Western Weather Expert Ken Clark said. "But if there is a succession of storms, the threat increases as the ground becomes more saturated."
Recent burn areas and regions in steep terrain are most vulnerable.
The stormy pattern is expected to last through at least midspring. For the region, most of the year's rainfall occurs from December to April, Clark said.
While any winter season brings the risk of landslides, officials are not taking chances this year due to the strong El Niño.
In Lake County, California, site of the Valley fire, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently approved a $883,000 culvert project to reduce the landslide threat.
Fifty-five culverts will be installed where burn scars prevent rain absorption, according to the county. Debris and flood potential is up to 1.7 times the normal amount, FEMA said in a press release, presenting an expected inundation of current drainage facilities.
The installation is expected to be completed within two years. In the short term, officials across the state have been handing out sandbags and hosting information sessions for residents to prevent flooding in their immediate area.
However, Ventura County experienced firsthand how dangerous the unsettled ground can be when mixed with torrential rain.
Mud and debris seeped across highways and residential areas that were burned during the Solimar Fire.