FOUNTAIN GROVE, Calif. (KTVU) - All day Wednesday, people In Sonoma and Napa County kept an eye to the skies, worried that heavy rains could cause a lot of trouble on bare hillsides and ground. Rain wasn't an issue until half past noon, when the first light rain started falling in Santa Rosa's Coffey Park and rain stayed light for the afternoon. The worry in Sonoma County and well as Napa County, that serious rain falling on denuded hillsides and burned out lots could start mudslides, floods; perhaps even landslides.
At Napa's Napa Valley Expo crews handed out free waddles to help folks stabilized their lands.
"We're up on a steep slope. The house has been removed, the foundations are gone. There's a lot of exposed dirt work and stuff that need to be protected from getting too wet," said resident Hoag Husted.
Back in Sonoma County, the worst danger is to those residences, wineries and businesses and youth authority facility at the foot of Hood Mountain Regional Park. The mountain is so denuded of vegetation and so unstable, the park is closed indefinitely and signs proclaim the extreme danger to those close by.
There's plenty of drainages all around this mountain that can handle normal rains and even torrential ones, provided that the tees and the brush and the grass are still up there which they are not anymore. And, the problem is: if you start getting major flows of mud died landslides, these drainages will be overwhelmed.
In Santa Rosa, the State Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci was grateful for the mostly light rain and said a lot of preparations are already in place. "Right after the fires went out, one of the key priorities that we had was to put in mitigation efforts, clear channels, put in waddles, these devices to help to channel and offset water flows, a tremendous amount of mitigation has been done," he said.
The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, parent to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came to wine country today to see the devastation of last fall's fires. Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in office for less than a month, made it a priority to see the Wine Country fire area along with the state's Office of Emergency Services Director.
"It was very important for me to come out myself and to see the damage and to have the opportunity to learn from folks here what their needs are. I am also in awe of the community spirit that I've witnessed over the last couple days," said Nielsen.
Nielsen heaped praise on the first responders, relief agencies and the survivors she met as well as the amount of work already accomplished. "The amount of debris collected to date is equal to the weight of four-fifths of the Golden Gate Bridge. That is a tremendous amount of debris and we're only just beginning," said Nielsen.
She indicated the trip was worth the effort and valuable. "We have learned solid lessons, in coordination and partnership. We will carry these throughout the country to other disasters that we face," said Nielsen.
Though many lots have been cleared and read for building, there's still a tremendous amount of properties that have yet to be worked on.