THE CALIFORNIA DELUGE : Victims of Buena Park Flood Leave Home Again


Elva Ybarra stood watching as the floodwaters rose again Tuesday, oddly insulated from the trauma of other families who were hastily packing their belongings and evacuating their homes near the storm channel at Beach Boulevard and 11th Street.

"I've already lost everything," said Ybarra, 21, a photographer whose portfolio and many other belongings were destroyed in last week's flooding. "They can't take anything else away from me."

For other families, Tuesday's deja vu deluge forced another evacuation and brought with it new troubles, raising the water level in the Fullerton Creek flood control channel near their homes within a foot of overflowing.

Although the waters later receded, police and city staffers evacuated about 15 apartment buildings and single-family homes near the channel as a precaution, and set up a temporary shelter at a nearby church. By late evening, only 10 people were staying at the shelter at the First Southern Baptist Church on Melrose Avenue; 19 had occupied it at the height of the storm. Officials said they were prepared to house as many as 150.

As she visited the shelter Tuesday afternoon, Buena Park Councilwoman Patsy Marshall said she wondered what else could go wrong during her first few weeks in office.

"I took office on Dec. 5, and the county declared bankruptcy on Dec. 6. Now this," Marshall said. "I'm literally getting my feet wet in Orange County politics."

The daylong rain also brought new transportation woes to the area's weary residents, already suffering from a nearly weeklong closure of Beach Boulevard between Orangethorpe and Magnolia. A busy section of the road was closed in both directions Jan. 4, the day before a large sinkhole collapsed a portion of the pavement.

About 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, a section of Western Avenue, the next major thoroughfare to the west, suddenly collapsed into the flood control channel.

Patrice Alvarado, who sought shelter at the church along with her two young children, was near the road when it caved in Tuesday.

"It was the most frightening thing," said Alvarado, who lives in a condominium complex near Western and Melrose. "I heard a big boom and I thought to myself, 'We have to get out of here.' " They did so, as quickly as possible, she said.

On Sullivan Place, a tiny street sandwiched between the channel to the north and Melrose Avenue to the south, Yong Cho was hastily packing up her belongings and racing to leave the area with her three children.

Cho, 39, said she feared the earth supporting her back yard, which abuts the channel, might give way, taking her property with it. She said she had picked up her children from school, packed their clothes, birth certificates and other documents, loaded the family dog into her car and was heading to her sister's home in Fullerton.

About a block away, residents were also evacuating, although by late evening the newest storm had spared those homes as well, officials said.

But memories of last week's flooding of a cluster of homes near the channel at Beach Boulevard had residents throughout this section of the city uneasy.

Kevin and Karen Kartchner, who manage an apartment house on Melrose near Beach, were heading to Kevin's parents' home in Bellflower for the night, along with their children, Adam, 6, and Heather, 10.

"A lot of (our) tenants are scared and some are sleeping on the floor next to their doors so they will have warning this time," Karen Kartchner said. She said she mourns the family photo albums, books and other mementos irreparably damaged in last week's flood, but is thankful that her wedding dress and great-grandmother's diariesstored in plastic containers--survived.

Down the street, Linda Gonzales, a research technician at Cal State Fullerton, was busy trying to outguess the fates while she evacuated her stucco home Tuesday.

"I had put everything down (on the floor) since the earthquake last year and now I'm putting everything back up (to escape floodwaters)," she said. "I'm trying to find a happy medium."

Times staff writer Leslie Berkman contributed to this report.

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