A mandatory evacuation order is now in effect for over 8,000 residents in the areas of Oak Glen, northeast Yucaipa, and Mountain Home Village due to mudslide risks. This is an upgrade from Wednesday’s evacuation warning.
The San Bernardino County Sherriff’s Department made the announcement at a press conference Thursday morning, January 28, amid growing concern that flooding and mudslides could be triggered by an incoming storm that could bring three to four inches of rain to the Inland region Thursday evening.
“Don’t wait." said Yucaipa and Oak Glen Fire Chief, Grant Malinowski. "If we ask you to leave your home for your safety, please leave your home.”
An evacuation order for mudslides is the first of its kind for the area, and local deputies will be moving door-to-door to inform residents. Road closures are likely as the day progresses, says the Sherriff’s department, so getting an early start before the rain arrives will help avoid gridlock.
A Red Cross evacuation center is now operating at Redlands East Valley High School at 31000 E. Colton Avenue.
“We’re worried about mudslides [and] debris flow," said Malinowski. "We don’t need hours and hours and hours of rain. We need short downbursts. Short down bursts [are] what will oversaturate the soil and trigger it.”
Mudslides, said Malinowski, are not like wildfires. You can’t see them coming and those short bursts of rain could trigger the release of millions of tons of dirt from the burn scar areas of the Apple and El Dorado fires. When soil is burned, it can’t hold as much water. The saturation point is reached more quickly which can release a dangerous muddy mixture of debris, like boulders and trees, into residential areas.
Which in recent days, is what happened in some fire burn areas in Northern California. The flooding and mudslides there, said San Bernardino County Fire spokesperson Tracey Martinez, raises the cause for concern locally.
“That can happen here, and the probability of it happening here is very high," said Martinez. "So we are taking every measure that we can to warn the public.”
Residents in the evacuation zone can also call 2-1-1 or the public information hotline 909-355-8800 for more information.
A county run map of the evacuation zone can be found here.