As Orange County Braved Storm, Community Efforts Helped Prevent Major Mudslides

January 29, 2021 Updated: January 31, 2021

Orange County endured several mudslides late Jan. 28, but no injuries as a rainstorm hammered down on the region, causing numerous car crashes and prompting evacuation orders.

Heavy rains triggered mudslides near Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon, where two major fires in 2020 ravaged foliage that once played a critical role in controlling water flow in rural valleys.

“Our big concern was the burn scar area of the Bond fire and Silverado fires,” Orange County Fire Authority Cpt. Paul Holaday told The Epoch Times Jan. 29.

The outcome might have been worse if not for efforts by local citizens and Orange County Public Works (OCPW) employees, who worked together to clear out the mud with tractors and bulldozers and other heavy equipment for several days in anticipation of the storm.

Local residents helped prepare for the week leading up to the storm by clearing the riverbed, removing debris from behind homes, moving concrete barriers, and stacking sandbags.

“The fire department gave us a compliment for how prepared we are for dealing with our situation,” Susan Iwamoto, a resident of Williams Canyon, told The Epoch Times.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department issued a voluntary emergency evacuation order for the Bond fire burn area Jan. 28, due to potential flooding and debris flows. The evacuation warning was for homes located within Silverado Canyon, Williams Canyon, and Modjeska Canyon.

The order encouraged residents to leave their homes and make their own arrangements for alternative shelter with family, friends, or a local hotel. The American Red Cross offered a temporary evacuation point at El Moderna High School in Orange.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood warning for overnight Jan. 28 into the morning of Jan. 29. The warning was in effect through 4:00 p.m. Jan. 29.

“Know your escape routes, and be ready to act immediately and heed all evacuation orders,” NWS posted on its website.

The night of the storm, there were several mudslides within the canyons. OCPW used equipment to clear the roads of debris from the mudslides. Fire department crews were on standby in case of emergency.

Mudslide and debris flows crossed over Silverado road, causing damage to several structures.

No one was trapped or injured; the extent of structural damage is unclear.

Holaday said on Jan. 29 that although the heaviest part of the rain had passed, that didn’t mean the threat was gone.

“The ground is saturated. … There’s still a high probability that those hillsides could slide down,” he said.

“We want to thank the community for heeding our warnings to evacuate and prepare. They did a great job, and with that, nobody was injured and damage was minimized.”

The Orange County Health Care Agency didn’t schedule any appointments at the Disneyland Super POD (point-of-distribution) vaccination site in Anaheim Jan. 29 in anticipation of the rain.

Additional staff was allocated to the indoor Super POD site at Soka University in Aliso Viejo to maintain daily vaccination levels.