The mountain burn areas around Idyllwild and Pine Cove will be especially susceptible to heavy rain and flooding this afternoon according to a National Weather Service weather warning issued minutes ago.
This includes Bonita Vista Ranch, which already lost two natural ponds to Thursday’s flooding. (See related story below.)
NWS Doppler radar continues to indicate heavy rains causing flooding in central Riverside County areas already doused for the last three days.
The warning is in effect until 3:15 p.m. today.
Specific locations in the warn area include, but are not limited to, Mountain Center and all structures, roads, campgrounds and utilities in low-lying areas of Taqhuitz Creek, Andreas Canyon, Murray Canyon, West Fork Palm Canyon, Fobes Canyon, Apple Canyon, Hurkey Creek and Coldwater Creek.
Watersheds burned in 2013 within the Mountain Fire burn area are particularly susceptible to flash floods and debris flows from this rainstorm, according to the NWS report.
Roads that might be affected include, but are not limited to, those in the vicinity of South Palm Canyon Drive, Highway 74 or Pines To Palms Highway; between Mountain
Center and Morris Ranch Road, Fobes Ranch Road, Apple Canyon Road, Bonita Vista Road, Forest Service 5521 and Forest Service 5505.
Check the Town Crier website for updates and breaking weather news.
The Town Crier received a call just before 11 a.m. today from Serita Silen of Garner Valley advising us of a dire situation in Bonita Vista near Apple Canyon in the burn area. Silen’s friend, Dia Abrams, is the owner of Bonita Vista Ranch, a 130-acre property surrounded by burnt, destroyed land. While her home and two other structures on the property survived the fire, the mud flow and debris the recent storms caused has left Abrams in fear that the storm predicted for this afternoon will be the final straw.
Publisher-Editor Becky Clark contacted Mike Feyder of the Mountain Disaster Preparedness. Feyder then contacted Cal Fire at Station 53 in Garner Valley and was advised that CalFire was on Abram’s property trying to assist her in preparing for the storm predicted for this afternoon. Cal Fire advised Feyder that there was not much anyone could do at this point; that preparations — such as rocks and retaining walls — should have been made well in advance of the storms.
Thursday's torrential storm washed away two natural ponds that provide water and shelter for indigenous wildlife on the ranch and came feets away from claiming the ranch owner's house.
Even as she was assessing the damage today, Abrams cringed as a lightening bolt cracked shortly after noon and intermittent drops of rain started pelting the cell phone she was using to call friends for support.
Ranch employee Isidro Garcia worked feverishly on a tractor 100 yards upstream trying to build up mud bars to deflect the flow away from the house even as the first thunderbolt cracked over the mountain a few minutes after noon.
Muddy black silt rose 8 feet deep up to the branches of the trees. The flood waters cut a swatch about 50-feet wide and less that 20 feet from her house, which sits up a low grade.
One emergency Cal Fire crew from Garner Valley arrived but left soon after as it could provide little aid.
The Cal Fire crew, including Capt. Patty West, were on scene to assist Abrams in preparing for the storm the National Weather Service predicted to hit the area again today.
Three structures, Abrams home and two fully furnished cabins are threatened. Abrams’ concern is that she doesn’t have enough time to get everything out of the cabins before the current storm begins. “There are just Isidro [ranch employee, Isidro Garcia] and I to get everything out,” she said.
Using a tractor, Garcia was creating dams to divert water away from the structures under the direction of Cal Fire.
Abrams is a tall, slender and raw-boned blonde whowas wearing jeans, pink top flip flops but blood-shot, puffy blue eyes.
She has two fire hydrants with 60,000 gallons of water.
"I was prepared for a fire," she said. "I wasn't prepared for a flood. Who would think about a flood in Southern California."
She was not physically injured but she said she was "strung out."
She had two natural ponds fed by snow melt-off. Both were filled with seas bass, blue gill and ducks. They also served as a watering holes for wild animals like bobcat.
The 1-acre pond near her house was about 12 feet deep but was filled with silty mud on Friday. The mud wave rolled past her house and wrapped around a small outbuilding a few yards down the bed.
The 3-acre pond, fed by the smaller pond and three often-dry creeks, disappeared. On Friday, a clear stream of water a few inches deep and 10-yards wide trickled over two rock-and-cement falls that once were the dam that helped control the outflow.
The problems started during Tuesday's freak storm that filled the ponds to the brink, she said.
Shortly after Thursday's downpour, she noticed the mud flowing through, creating black streams that stopped flowing but stayed in place soon after the rain stopped, she said.
She called 911 but rescuers did not go all the way out to the remote ranch because the roads were covered in water, mud and debris, she said.
"I have enough water and wine to survive," she said. "But I kind of shut down since Tuesday. And I haven't slept at all."
The ranch is nestled neatly by surrounding mountains still spangled with soot-colored trees stumps, gnarled Joshua trees and grotesquely twisted manzanitas as the smell of acrid smoke hung in the humid, sticky air.
She hopes some organizations and government agencies can come forward with money and volunteers to help rebuild the ponds.
"These are natural ponds, kind of like wildlife sanctuaries," she said.