REDDING, Calif. — As winter weather moves in, Caltrans District 2 says they are keeping a close eye on Highway 299 near the Carr Fire burn scars for mud slides, severe weather and debris flows that could potentially impact the roadways this winter.
Don Anderson, the Deputy District Director for Caltrans said the most common winter weather issues they encounter include slip-outs where the edges of the highway erode away or collapse and slides where debris is washed onto the highway.
In his words, every year they expect mud slides and debris flows onto the highways and rural roads.
However, in areas that were scarred by the Carr Fire those risks are much higher this year.
"So, when that debris comes down, it's a mixture of soil, the sticks and certainly all the ash that's combined with that. And it really creates this mud slurry that once it gets toward a culvert can really plug it up rapidly," Anderson said.
To help off-set these risks, Caltrans has taken a number of precautions to help minimize the problems caused by winter weather conditions, starting by looking for warning signs.
"You just can't monitor all of it. So, what we do is look for clues. We look for rocks falling. We look for vegetation loss coming off the hillside, and then we go after it aggressively," said Caltrans Deputy District Director Don Anderson.
After identifying potential weak spots, they then take action by installing drainage and erosion tools like stand pipes, debris racks and netting to minimize the danger in those areas.
"When we have fire, you're going to get two to three to five times the same amount of material that's coming down at a faster pace, and it's all going to be mixed together and it can overwhelm our culverts. It can overwhelm our crews when we're not ready for it," Anderson said.
However, Anderson said they have also increased staffing at least 500 percent to meet the unique needs this winter.
All of this because Anderson said he expects the risk for mud slides and debris flows onto Highway 299 to continue to increase all winter, causing increased danger for drivers and residents living near the Carr Fire burn scar.
"I think the rainfall is going to get heavier. We will get some bigger storms. So we will see higher flows, as far as the debris run-off, and the amount of mud and ash and stuff that's coming down," Anderson said.