Cleanup Continues in Coachella Valley, especially in Cathedral City [Opinion]

Tropical Storm Hilary Cleanup Continues [Opinion]Tropical Storm Hilary has come and gone, but the damage left behind will haunt some our friends and neighbors for some time. As a longtime resident of the Coachella Valley, I have borne witness to severe rain, severe dust storms, and severe windstorms. But Tropical Storm Hilary brought not only rain, but also wind.

Unfortunately, some of our valley residents were witness to another feature, mud. Lots of it. Tuesday after the storm, I went to several streets, Avenida La Vista and Horizon Road to document and report the damage. Those that I talked with were fortunate to escape the life-threatening mud that invaded their streets, and for some, even their homes. One question that was not really addressed at the time was, where the mud come from. Apparently from the north, but how and why. After all, it will rain in the future and determining the source may be helpful to prevent another mud flow.

Friday after the storm, I was able to make time and revisit Horizon Road and look at the progress of the cleanup and into the potential source of the mudflow. These homes were hit hard with families and workers with shovels in hand clearing the mud from their homes. There were a number of loaders scooping up mud and transporting it across Vista Chino and dumping it on the north side of the street. The northeast corner of Horizon Road and Adelina Road was full with a mound of dirt more than 12ft high. But how and where did it come from?

Tropical Storm Hilary Cleanup Continues [Opinion]It was time to explore the area and find out. Most persons had suspected that the mud may have come from the north, which was a vacant piece of open desert located at the northwest corner of Date Palm Drive and Vista Chino. A short hike to the
intersection and up the Date Palm Dr. overpass gave a bird’s-eye view of the open desert, which is bordered to the north with a row of Tamarisk trees used as a windbreak. The railroad line is north of and runs parallel with the Tamarisk trees.

Tropical Storm Hilary Cleanup Continues [Opinion]From this location a large area of the open desert appears to still be wet from the Tamarisk trees all the way to Vista Chino. It was apparent from observing the landscape that water/mud had passed along the open desert. I wonder what would have happened if this property had homes built on it.

Tropical Storm Hilary Cleanup Continues [Opinion]Observing the side of this property didn’t reveal any clues to what was currently going on, but from the top of the overpass did. There were a number of tractors sitting idle between the Tamarisk trees and the railroad tracks. The distance from the Tamarisk trees to the railroad tracks appeared to be approximately 50 feet. The ground had appeared to have been worked on by these tractors. The dirt affected appears to be hundreds of yards west of the overpass. From this observation, It would appear that the base of the Tamarisk trees and the railroad tracks are elevated from the south side of the tracks between the railroad tracks and the Tamarisk trees, which may have created a kind of catch basin that may have held water from the rain. Then at some point the water may have breached the base of the Tamarisk trees causing an uncontrolled flow of water onto the open desert flowing to the affected homes directly south.

Tropical Storm Hilary Cleanup Continues [Opinion]

North side of railroad tracks

Looking to the north side of the railroad tracks also appeared to have an area extending up to I-10, which resembled a catch basin, especially with the lack of desert brush, as if washed away. Just how much water came from the I-10 direction? After all, I-10 was shut down in the area due to massive flooding. If this area held water, to what extent did it play in the event of Sunday night? Did it feed the water to the south side of the railroad tracks? There certainly appeared to be a lot of wood debris along a row of Tamarisk trees that appeared to have been cut much shorter than those on the south side. Is it possible a train came through Sunday night and perhaps had a camera recording any of the rainfall or flooding in this area?

Now certainly noticeably absent was a landscape engineer, a hydraulics engineer or any other person that could provide an expert opinion as to what happened. But is it possible? Hopefully the city engineers will come to some conclusion and provide a flood control plan that will prevent another similar incident from happening again.

Image Sources

  • IMG_9168_300dpi: Warren Horton
  • IMG_9536a-1: Warren Horton
  • North side of Tamarisk trees: Warren Horton
  • North side of railroad tracks: Warren Horton
  • Horizon Road, North of Panorama Road: Warren Horton