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From Sky and on Ground, Storm Wages War on Roads, Houses : Floods: Sandbag crews struggle against water and muck that sweep through Quartz Hill.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The overnight collapse of a flood control basin in the western Antelope Valley sent a muddy river flowing through the upscale community of Quartz Hill early Friday morning, flooding garages and cars and filling streets and yards with muck.

Water rushed through some neighborhoods northeast of Palmdale with such force that it seeped into at least a dozen houses, damaging carpets and furniture. Road shoulders collapsed as far away as 30th Street West, where underground telephone lines had recently been installed.

Los Angeles County firefighters struggled to divert the water away from residences with sandbags throughout the day Friday. Crews from the city of Palmdale prevented the erosion of another dam wall in the area by pumping water out of the earth basin behind it.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who toured the site in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, blamed the flood on the city of Palmdale, saying the city’s drainage systems are inadequate to handle the region’s rapid housing construction.

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“We had communicated with them about this problem in the past months,” Antonovich said, producing copies of correspondence between his office and the city beginning in September in which he complained about runoff from the city eroding streets in Quartz Hill, an unincorporated county territory.

Steve Williams, Palmdale’s public works director, said no widespread drainage shortcomings appeared to be involved. Instead, he said, the problem seemed to be isolated to the failure of a flood control basin at Avenue N and 60th Street West, built and still maintained by Kaufman & Broad Home Corp., owners of a partially completed housing project at that location named Chateau California.

After water burst through the first basin wall, it took out two dams just downstream, to the north, before rushing into Quartz Hill less than a mile away, City Engineer John Mundweil said.

Developers are required to build and maintain drainage systems until projects are complete, then they are turned over to the city, Williams said.

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Later Friday, a flood control basin wall at another housing project, at Avenue M and 71st Street West, began to leak, throwing into question the city’s assertion that the drainage problem was isolated. City crews used sandbags and shovels to stem the flow of water there, then set up a pump.

A Kaufman & Broad president, Duane Betty, said company engineers were still trying to determine what caused their basin to break. He said they were making temporary repairs on Friday and would begin rebuilding it as soon as they had discussed the problem with city engineers.

“The basin was constructed in the first place . . . to a design that was approved by the city,” Betty said.

Quartz Hill residents, up since 4 a.m. fashioning mud dams, blamed all concerned. They spent the day Friday trying to dry out their belongings and sandbag their yards to prevent further damage from the rain that continued to fall sporadically.

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“We knew this was going to happen,” said Jim Artz as he watched fire officials lay sandbags against his curb near 50th Street West and Avenue M. “Overdevelopment is the first problem and the second problem is poor engineering by Los Angeles County and the city of Palmdale.”

The county Regional Planning Department estimates the Antelope Valley’s population has more than doubled in the past decade as people have fled skyrocketing housing costs in metropolitan Los Angeles. The desert valley’s population rose from 107,000 in 1980 to 221,000 last year, said George Malone, a supervising regional planner. Projections that Malone called extremely conservative call for another 110,000 people to move there over the next 10 years.

Growth pressure is particularly acute on the Valley’s west side, where Quartz Hill is located. Quartz Hill has grown from about 12,000 residents in 1980 to about 17,000 last year.

Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Michael Waters, head of the Quartz Hill station, said six 11-man crews of prison inmates helped firefighters place sandbags in front of residences but no evacuations were necessary. Mud and water closed portions of Avenues I, K, L, M, and N, authorities said.

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Chunks of dislodged driveway asphalt “big enough to hold half a car” washed down the street, witness Bridgit Anderson said.

Anderson and her husband, Craig, were moving from Crestline to Palmdale on Thursday when their rented truck began filling with water, she said. The couple woke up at 4 a.m. to find 30th Street West was a small river and the truck had dropped into a ditch eroded into the road shoulder.

Flooding in the Antelope Valley 1. Engineers from the county and the city of Palmdale believe the flooding started during the early-morning hours on Friday, when a water catch basin at the edge of the Chateau California subdivision gave way near Avenue N and 60th Street West, inside Palmdale city limits. 2. The force of the water and mud rushing from that basin burst through a second drainage dam across Avenue N to the north. 3. As the water rushed downstream, it also took out a third barrier near 55th Street West and Avenue M-8, sending muddy water spewing down streets and into yards and garages in the Quartz Hill neighborhood. Water seeped inside about a dozen homes, ruining carpets and damaging furniture, and stretched as far as Avenue 1 to the north and the Sierra Highway to the east. Staff writer Leslie Berger also contributed to this story


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