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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Warmer Weather and Wetting Rain Provide for Watch-Out Situations

 A few warm and sunny days and a robust fishing season have brought many visitors to the lower elevations front-country on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.  Recreationists may encounter a number of breathtaking views, crystal clear waters, world class fishing, and abundant wildlife.  They may also encounter a variety of hazards caused by this past season’s wildfires and recent wetting rains.

It’s unusual to ask visitors to consider the hazards of wildland fire in March, but many post-fire hazards exist. The safety of our visitors and employees is very important to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. 

These photos, taken recently in the Tepee Springs fire perimeter, are reminders that visitors should use caution while visiting areas that have experienced fire activity. 

Rolling rocks and debris are common in fire areas where foliage is no longer present to hinder their descent.  When you enter a burned area, treat it as if you have never been there.  Conditions change minute to minute in recently burned areas, especially in the springtime.  Consider alternative routes and their current availability.  If the location you are recreating in doesn’t have a second route be prepared with the appropriate gear.  Have a solid check in plan as well.  No one will come to your aid if they don’t know you’re in trouble.

Other hazards may include: 
·     Thunderstorms, long duration storms, and rain-on-snow events can produce debris flows which may occur throughout the burned areas and downstream of these areas.  These debris
·      flows are dangerous for anyone caught in their path.
·      Snags and woody debris can clog culverts and bridges which may wash out those structures.
·       Floating and submerged logs may pose extreme hazards to boaters, rafters, and waders.
·       Trees may fall at any time, but are especially susceptible to failure during high wind and/or heavy rain or snow.

In addition to the very public highway 14 slide, an additional slide on Forest Service road 443, Falls Point road,  was discovered March 1.  The slide has closed the road to all traffic.  Prior to the slide, the road was open to vehicles less than 50 inches.

Falls Point road falls within the 2015 Wash Fire perimeter.  Although the burned landscape contributed to the slide, spring rains and run-off were also contributing factors.