Wine country recovery hampered by heavy rains

A rainy March is much needed after a relatively dry California winter, but for wine country burn areas, it could slow down recovery while increasing risk of landslides.

The heavy overnight rains did not produce floods or slides in historical Glen Ellen, but it put a halt to major clean-up and reconstruction efforts, with very few contractors able to work in soggy, muddy conditions.

Dr. Raam Pandeya moved into a trailer on his burned out lot Thursday, the first night on his property since the fires. Though he was glad to be on his own land, the denuded hillside above will be a constant worry until the rainy season ends. "Yes, definitely, because the fire has taken everything off the hill; the trees, the bushes, anything that can protect the landslide in the heavy rain and things like that. After this tree, you can see it became a bald head. Nothing is there to hold," said Pandeya.

He had some plumbers and electricians hooking up his trailer to sewer and power. For these smaller job contractors, working in rain is common. "It's easier to dig but it is heavier obviously, so I mean it's a trade off there," said contractor Duane Schoenfeld.   

Rains came and went Thursday, but with spring around the corner, Dr. Raam is already thinking about the next fire season. He said, he'll take inspiration for some housing in his home country of India and local winemakers in Glen Ellen and make his next home fireproof. "I'm going to build a cave here. The house will be made out of straw and clay," said Dr. Pandeya.

Had it not been for all the dry weather in February, work throughout the wine country burn area would not be nearly as far along as it is.