Mandatory evacuations ordered in Burbank as first major rainstorm of the year slams city

Mudslides, downed power lines and a broken gas main were just some of the issues Burbank residents in the Verdugo Mountains had to contend with as heavy rain battered the city Tuesday.

At around 6:30 a.m., a rush of mud and water made its way down a stretch of Country Club Drive near Via Montana. Three vehicles and an RV parked along the road were carried away in the mudslide.

A video released by the Burbank Police Department showed two of the cars trapped in the mud, with one of them overturned as a result.

One of the cars, a black Scion, had its interior filled with mud and its front smashed. The second vehicle, which appeared to have been a white pickup truck, was completely totaled.

In addition to damaging the vehicles, the mudslide upended several power poles and even ruptured a gas main.

Crews were able to shut down power to the area and were working on shutting off the gas, according to Burbank Fire Battalion Chief John Owings.

No injuries were reported as a result of the rain and mud.

The area became vulnerable to mudslides last September after the La Tuna fire burned more than 7,000 acres of land that would have otherwise helped mitigate the possibility.

Heidi Donanto-Fennell, who has lived on Country Club Drive for the last three years, was awoken by the rushing sound of the mudslide.

“I watched it wash right down the street,” she said. “I saw three to five cars tumbling down, an RV, power lines, tons of furniture and everyone’s mailboxes are gone.”

She said her home sustained some damage from the mudslide, but her car was relatively unscathed because it was parked away from the street.

Sgt. Derek Green, a spokesman for the Burbank Police Department, said residents had previously been informed the road was off-limits to traffic and parking before the storm arrived on Monday.

As a result of the damage, city officials upgraded a voluntary evacuation warning for residents in the foothills to a mandatory evacuation order, which involved all residences along Country Club Drive and those living east of Via Montana, according to Green.

He made reference to Tuesday’s fatal mudslide in Montecito that killed at least 13 people as a reason why people should take the order seriously.

“This is not meant to inconvenience anybody,” he said. “This is a matter of public safety.”

Owings said residents originally didn’t take the call to evacuate seriously when it was voluntary. He said several residents originally decided to stay home and attempt to defend their property from the rain and mud.

“Now that they see the potential of what could come down, they are being a lot more cooperative,” he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Owings said around 10 to 20 homes had yet to be evacuated. Multiple mudslides had impeded authorities’ efforts at escorting residents to safety with debris blanketing the road.

Donato-Fennell and her daughter, Allie Vonnacher, became separated from their home after going outside to see the earlier damage from the storm when a second mudslide blocked their way back.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Donato-Fennell said she was waiting to return home and grab the family dog, Gracie, before evacuating to safety.

Green said residents also face an additional danger from a 100-year-old storm basin that sits on top of the Verdugo Mountains.

“It’s our concern that, because of the amount of rain we’ve experienced in a short amount of time … it might not hold,” he said. “At this point, it’s doing its job, but its nearing its limit.”

andy.nguyen@latimes.com

Twitter: @Andy_Truc

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