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Drones used to assess storm damage in Los Padres National Forest

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 26, 2023

Crews with the Los Padres National Forest are using drones to pinpoint storm damage and take stock of what needs repair.

"We're taking the drone and looking at areas like this and beyond where we cannot access to put eyes in the sky so that we know what kind of flood damage is out back behind me," explained David Dahlberg, Los Padres National Forest Prevention Technician.

"There was extensive, widespread storm damage across Los Padres National Forest. Four different districts are currently under a closure order," said Andrew Madsen, Los Padres National Forest Public Affairs Officer.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, an estimated 1.5 million acres are closed to the public, with tens of millions of dollars in estimated damages.

"In some cases, it's simply clearing debris of a rock slide on a road, and then there's other cases where culverts have been clogged up and created issues or entire sections of road have simply fallen off," Madsen said.

They estimate they are about 50 percent done with their assessment

"The drone goes roughly a mile and a half away from the controller itself. We lose sight of the drone way before it gets to that point, and as we're flying these missions for the forest here, we have to keep a line of sight of the drone, which means we have to be able to see it at all times," Dahlberg explained.

Many trails and roads are impassable in the Los Padres National Forest. These assessments are going to drive their ability to reopen parts of the forest.

"Next week, we should have roughly anywhere between three to six more drones flying around the National Forest surveying roads just like this so that we know what we have out there, the damage that we have out there," Dahlberg said.

Crews expect to continue using the drones through March.

According to the Los Padres National Forest, people who had reservations during the storms were refunded and as soon as those areas reopen, they will be able to start making reservations again.