May 30, 2023
Fire and rain, an unlikely combination in Northern California
YREKA - In the Klamath National Forest in Northern California, where the McKinney Fire has killed four people, residents have been confronted by a raging inferno and flooding rain.

On Tuesday night, slow-moving severe thunderstorms unleashed downpours near the McKinney Fire, which has consumed more than 57,000 acres and is California’s largest fire of 2022.

The heavy rains helped slow the growth of the blaze but triggered flooding and mudslides in parts of the burned area.

The National Weather Service office in Medford, Ore., reported mud and debris on some area roads and flash flooding on the eastern side of the fire. It also issued a severe thunderstorm warning and a flash flood warning for Siskiyou County. The Siskiyou County sheriff reported a possible mudflow on Whitney Creek near Mount Shasta and urged residents to be ready to evacuate.

As barren ground absorbs less water and rainwater can easily pick up soil and sediments, charred areas are especially prone to debris flows and mudslides.

On Wednesday, fire behavior analyst Dennis Burns reported that some areas affected by the fire received as much as three inches of rain in just over an hour, leading to debris flows that compromised roads in the fire zone. “But other parts of the fire got no rain whatsoever,” Burns said.

Meanwhile, thunderstorm activity has brought a rash of lightning to the broader region, possibly sparking new fires.

The McKinney Fire near the town of Yreka, has destroyed structures and claimed at least four lives. Although officials do not think lightning sparked the fire, its growth was driven by erratic thunderstorm winds and fueled by high temperatures combined with dense, drought-stressed vegetation in the Klamath National Forest.

Given moist conditions, some progress is expected in the coming days on the McKinney Fire (57,500 acres) and the nearby Yeti Fire (2,980 acres), both of which so far have no containment.
Story Date: August 7, 2022
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