REPORTING FROM MONTECITO, Calif. — In the mountains above coastal Santa Barbara County, the vegetation is typically so deep and lush that it can soak up a half-inch of rainwater before it flows downhill.
But that was before the Thomas fire swept through in December, burning those trees and brush to the ground. Now, the rain has no buffer, and that is cause for alarm.
"It hits the dirt directly and it is instant runoff and carries that sediment," Thomas D. Fayram, the deputy public works director for the county, told concerned residents at a community meeting several weeks ago.
Southern California is about to get its first significant rainstorm in nearly a year this week, with more than 4 inches of rain expected in burn areas.