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Mountain storms send fire debris towards valley

By Greg Lee, KESQ News Channel 3 & CBS Local 2 Reporter, glee@kesq.com
Published On: Sep 05 2013 01:18:05 AM CDT
IDYLLWILD, Calif. -

The Coachella Valley continues to see runoff from heavy rain showers in the mountains.  Idyllwild and surrounding mountain communities have gotten hit by a series of heavy down pours this week, pushing debris from the Mountain and Silver fires into roadways and even all the way down to the valley.  The storms come quick and heavy.  "It was no more than fifteen minutes and it was literally as she said, apocalyptic," said one driver.

The rain sent people running for cover, forced a shopkeeper to push rising waters away from her door with a broom and filled streets quickly.  All this, less than 24 hours after a storm of hail came crashing down in Idyllwild.  "We've had rain for seven days in the afternoon and it just comes for about half an hour to an hour and then it leaves," said Dona Pahuta, who owns a store and lives in Idyllwild. 

The rash of heavy rain keeps sending water rushing down storm channels down the mountain.  With it, logs, branches and other debris left behind in the Silver and Mountain fires.  "A lot of the ash was on the road on my way back home and you could see where they were trying to clear it," said Rebecca Frazier, an Idyllwild resident.

Cal Trans worked to clear a ditch where the debris had clogged a drain, sending the mess onto State Highway 74. With more storms on the way, many crews are still on high alert.  "We could lose (State Route) 243 in places and (State Highway) 74 in places, if the continued daily deluges come down," said Chief Patrick Reitz from the Idyllwild Fire Department.

The effects of the storms are wide-spread in communities below the burn areas, including in the Coachella Valley.  A wall of mud and water, littered with fire debris, spilled down the wash at Araby Drive on Tuesday afternoon. "The other side of the crest which flows directly down into the Palm Springs area from the tram area," said Chief Reitz.  "Then you'll see flows in that direction as well."

With storms still moving over the mountain area, people say they can only wait and see what happens.   "You know we just watch the weather fronts, I can't stop Mother Nature," said Chief Reitz.