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Burbank shifts into cleanup mode for hillside community hit by heavy rainstorm

As soon as the deluge of water and mud had subsided enough on Country Club Drive, city and county crews got to work Tuesday on cleaning and repairing the battered Burbank neighborhood.

The area had become inundated with water and mud over the course of the storm that hit the Southland Monday. The rush of mud upended several power poles, caked homes along the street in a layer of grime, destroyed several cars and overturned an RV that damaged a gas line, which resulted in a leak.

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Residents were ordered to evacuate the neighborhood late Tuesday morning as a result of the leak but were eventually allowed to return to their homes shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The storm brought around 2.33 inches of rain to Burbank within a 48-hour period, according to the National Weather Service.

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Despite the damage that the rain did to the hillside community, the Los Angeles County's system for dealing with storms worked as intended.

Atop Country Club Drive sits a pair of debris basins built around 1929, according to Mark Pestrella, L.A. County's public works director.

When the upper and lower Sunset Debris Basins reach capacity during heavy rain, the overflow would then be channeled into a storm drain.

However, if the water and mud doesn't make its way into the drain, Pestrella said the runoff would then flow down the street and into catch basins along the road.

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That's what happened on Tuesday.

"The street system is part of the storm-drainage system," he said. "Those mudflows made [their] way down Country Club Drive and, for the most part, were within the street boundary."

Pestrella said he was thankful that no one was hurt as a result of the mud and no homes were severely damaged.

He said at no time during the storm did either basin become structurally compromised. All that was damaged was construction work to expand the capacity of the Upper Sunset Debris Basin.

Pestrella said county crews will return to the basins on Monday to assess the structures and begin clearing out debris that built up during the storm.

Because of last September's La Tuna fire, he said residents living near burn areas should be on heightened alert for at least the next three years of any potential debris flows during the wet season.

In addition to county crews, the city will also continue its cleanup efforts into next week. The neighborhood lost all utilities during the storm.

While the gas leak was repaired by Tuesday evening, removing the RV that damaged the line was a more difficult task.

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Eric Baumgardner, Burbank's emergency management coordinator, said workers attempted to lift the RV away on Thursday, but it broke apart during the process. By Friday, city personnel decided to cut the vehicle into smaller pieces that were then carted away on flatbed trucks.

He said Burbank Water and Power will also work on setting up permanent power poles to replace the ones lost in the storm. A temporary setup was installed for homes to be powered when the evacuation order was lifted.

Residents also undertook their own recovery efforts once they were allowed back into the neighborhood. Many went to work shoveling mud from their property and rinsing grime off their homes.

The Burbank Public Works Department will cart away any natural debris such as tree branches and rocks that residents leave on the curb, according to Baumgardner.

Twitter: @Andy_Truc

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