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Mudslides Force Evacuations In OC's Silverado Canyon

The road to Silverado Canyon during the 2007 Santiago Fire. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
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Additional reporting by Christopher Greenspon.

When it rains, it slides. Tuesday night's mild storm caused mud and debris slides in an area of Orange County scorched by the Bond Fire late last year. That fire, which burned for a week in December, blazed across nearly 6,700 acres in the Santiago Canyon area of Orange County.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday, the Orange County Sheriff's Department issued a mandatory evacuation order for Silverado Canyon. Nearby Modjeska and Williams canyons are under voluntary evacuation orders. Officials worry that more rain could trigger additional mudslides.

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"Based on the rain last night and this morning, there were four areas where there were significant mudflows between homes, impacting homes, impacting parked cars and basically making Silverado Canyon impassable," says Shannon Widore with OC Public Works.

Due to several feet of mud making it impassable, Silverado Canyon Road is closed between Olive Drive and Ladd Canyon. You won't be able to go farther east than 28251 Silverado Canyon Road, although everything west of that remains open.

Crews from various Orange County agencies, including the OC Fire Authority, are working to clear the road, which should take several hours. After that, officials will need to assess the safety of the road. If everything looks good, Silverado Canyon should reopen by midday or early afternoon.

Although last night's expected rainfall did not meet the threshold for a pre-emptive evacuation order, a small amount of rain can still have an outsized impact, especially on steep terrain charred by fire.

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"Basically, the water wouldn't be able to saturate into the ground so once it hits the burned hillsides, any significant amount of rain would cause the mud and debris flow to come down the hill," Widore explains.

Orange County officials have not received any other reports of mud or debris flows from last night's rain.

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