Posted: Feb 21, 2013 8:17 PM by Ben Trotter
While the Pine Creek fire has been extinguished for months, it continues to impact Paradise Valley.
Experts say come spring and summer, if it rains a heavy amount, the burnt area could experience flash flooding. Says Gallatin National Forest Hydrologist Dale White, "For a given rainstorm, say it came two years ago. If that same exact rainstorm came and rained exactly in the same spot...you'd be looking to see more runoff"
White says this is due largely to two things. First, as vegetation is burnt, and especially so in a hot fire like Pine Creek, nothing remains to hold soil in place and soak up rainwater. The second reason though, is a little more surprising.
"The other thing is soil, especially when you've got, again, a really hot fire, it gets what you call hydrophobicity going on...basically make it water repellent."
What happens is a chemical change in the soil itself, brought on by heat. And when that happens, the ground loses much of its ability to absorb water, instead letting it run over the surface.
White says, however, that not all is doom and gloom, that the 'hydrophobicity' is repairing itself as we speak and "It's gonna heal within 3 to 5 years...and it will get better."