Burn areas impacted by showers

Heavy rain brings chance of mudslides


Alex Goldbeck/Talon

Crews on Hollytree Drive in Oak Park work to block mudslides from impacting roads and houses

By Anusha Rao and Mina Jung

Oak Park residents kept a close eye on their surroundings during the week of Jan.14 to Jan.18 due to the chance of mudslides caused by heavy rain. Many in recent burn areas became aware of the danger after receiving text alerts and notifications from the National Weather Service that warned them of possible mudslides and flash flooding.

The recent Woolsey Fire burned through many areas near homes, leaving the land barren and charred. The lack of vegetation causes hills above structures in burnt areas to be more prone to mudslides and destruction when there are high amounts of heavy rain. These dangerous mudslides can destroy homes and endanger the lives of residents.

Sophomore Jackson Finch lives in an area where homes were damaged by the Woolsey Fire and was under mandatory evacuation due to mudslide fears.

“A storm and flash flooding doesn’t seem that dangerous, but if serious, it can be more detrimental to buildings than a fire is,” Finch said. “Luckily, firefighters took the proper precautions to try and hold back the mudslides by tarping and holding back the land.”

Finch and his family learned about the financial ramifications following natural disasters.

“Unlike fire insurance, a typical homeowner’s insurance plan does not have flood insurance included, and we learned that we didn’t as well,” Finch said. “My parents panicked and tried to add that to our insurance plan as quickly as possible.”

Freshman Amaan Nabeel’s Calabasas community prepared in advance for the storm.

“I think the weather reports made it very easy for us to prepare for the storm,” Nabeel said. “Our neighborhood got sandbags and tarps to cover and protect entrances and exits so water wouldn’t leak. Fortunately, we didn’t have any mudslides.”

Both Finch and Nabeel were prepared to evacuate in case of a mudslide.

“My family packed and was ready to leave if the rain got worse, but luckily it didn’t,” Finch said.

Over the past three months, Oak Park has been subjected to two natural disasters, which caused damage to property as well as the natural landscape. Some have attributed this to climate change.

“It was a dry summer so that causes some potential for fires. And then after fires, if there’s heavy rains, then you have a potential for mudslides,” Assistant Principal Jason Meskis said. “I think that it’s kind of cyclical, but I guess we’ve just had a little bit of bad luck this year.”

Director of Student Support and School Safety, Stewart McGugan, sent out emails with weather alerts and warnings to parents. Superintendent Tony Knight also kept parents up-to-date by taking many measures to ensure student safety and well-being during this time period.

“We canceled seventh period at the high school and we wanted everyone to get picked up because they were anticipating a lot of heavy rainfall in a short amount of time, which can lead to those landslides or flooding,” Meskis said. “We were worried about road closures, and with so many people coming from outside of the district to pick up students, we [wanted] to make sure that [could] be done as quickly and safely as possible”

According to Meskis, the best thing to do is to keep an eye out on the weather, as it changes constantly.

“I’m very confident with our district at making these decisions,” Meskis said. “I think we definitely put student safety first.”

This story was originally published on The Oak Park Talon on January 29, 2019.