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How do you know if your home is at risk from mudflows?

Mud fills a street after a rain-driven mudslide destroyed two cars and damaged property in a neighborhood under mandatory evacuation in Burbank, California, Jan. 9, 2018.
Mud fills a street after a rain-driven mudslide destroyed two cars and damaged property in a neighborhood under mandatory evacuation in Burbank, California, Jan. 9, 2018.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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When heavy rains move across Southern California, areas scorched by wildfires are especially prone to mudflows. But even if your house isn't in a burn area, it may be in danger.

Experts rely on a combination of satellite imagery, topography, on-the-ground mapping, rainfall estimates and the history of mudflows in an area to determine vulnerability, said Francis Rengers, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

But they don't always get it right. 

An area of Santa Barbara County that was badly hit by the mudslides Tuesday was under voluntary, not mandatory evacuations, according to a map and press release circulated by Santa Barbara County.

"If there’s a big hill behind you, it’s best to get out and play it safe," Rengers said.

For those trying to get their game plan together, Rengers offered these tips:

  1. Heed evacuation orders. Mudflows can move extremely quickly — up to 50 mph. So if you're told to leave your home, please do.
  2. Follow weather forecasts. Know when the rains are coming your way, so you can prepare your next move.
  3. Know where your shelters are. Look up where nearby shelters are — and multiple routes to get there, in case the roads are blocked.