Despite their seeming opposite nature, fires and floods are frequently related to natural disasters. After all, since flames dry up plants and destroy surplus plant matter, they would lessen the likelihood of floods. But the connection between floods and fires is more nuanced than it first seems.
What Is The Reason Floods Often Follow Fires?
The NWS issues a warning because wildfires can alter the environment permanently and increase the danger of flooding for many years. In and around steep terrain, locations downstream and downhill from burned areas are more vulnerable to debris flows and flash flooding.
Where the fire burned hot enough or long enough, soils in those regions form a coating that, when it rains, actually deters water, much like rain on pavement.
Rainfall that would often be absorbed by the ground’s vegetative detritus and the forest canopy will instead swiftly run. Because of this, substantially less precipitation is necessary to trigger a flash flood, and the possibility of debris flows rises due to the destruction of plant life that stabilises the soil.
What Takes Place When Debris Flows?
The most frequent time for debris flows following wildfires is during heavy rain. A steep slope or prolonged downpour is unnecessary for debris flow. On a dry slope, it can begin after just a few minutes of heavy rain.
“Intense” rain is a sudden downpour lasting around half an hour. Rainfall rate is more important than total rainfall regarding debris flows.
How Does A Flow Of Debris Work?
Debris flows are lethal, swift-moving landslides. They are strong concoctions of dirt, pebbles, large rocks, whole trees, and occasionally houses or cars. “Debris flows” are sometimes referred to as “mudslides” or “mudflows.”
Although many people use the terms synonymously, experts distinguish between the three types of landslides, with debris flows being the most potent and hazardous.
Why Do Debris Flows Present Such A Risk?
Debris flows happen quickly and without warning. They can catch up to your car faster than you can run! Furthermore, people must find out where or when debris flows will begin.
It might start in a stream channel, then emerge and take over a residential area. Debris flows can develop in previously unexplored areas or areas that have never occurred.
Connection To Drought
Droughts frequently fuel fires. Although the recent moderate rains may have given the impression that the drought is gone, it is still officially declared severe. According to FEMA, it may take up to five years for the landscape to recover from a fire in a way that lowers the risk of flooding.
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