(Found buried in the drafts, I think it’s from 2015.)
Unfortunate news, this fire…when the rains come this portends mudslides in the burn area and a blocked 101. I suspect the people living on the strand there are feeling a little nervous, considering that stretch’s history. La Conchita is only a couple miles up the 101 and has had three major slides in the last 20 years. The center of gravity on those very loose ocean-facing slopes is completely different soaked than it is dry, and when saturation reaches critical mass acres of earth will slump almost silently downward till it reaches a point where a new and correct center of gravity is reached. Back in 2004 or 2005 ten people were killed in La Conchita, buried alive. There was no warning. Suddenly the hillside slid down, and acres of top soil– with vegetation eerily in place–remained intact, just in a new place. It’s a tiny place, La Conchita, just a village, and we drove round its few blocks after the first slide in 1995 just to get a close up view of a of the power of mud on the move. On the street that had borne the brunt of it the fronts of houses were intact but the insides had been forced through the front windows by sodden earth, one of the eeriest things I’ve ever seen. Fortunately the homes in Solimar Beach are the ocean side of the freeway, not as threatened as La Conchita which is tucked between the 101 and the bluffs on a little sliver of a plain that must have seemed heavenly–there was a banana farm there, so unique was the microclimate–till the earth came down on top of it. It seems heavenly again, too, and now that the bluffs have done their sliding perhaps they are safe again. Not so Solimar. All that ground is still up there overhead, and when the rains come from the southwest they can open on those hills like the biblical flood. California has amazingly dynamic geology, so much movement, some inexorably slow and some instantaneously sudden, and you’ll find yourself staring at a boulder the size of a house sitting in an open field and have no idea how it ever got there.