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SEAL BEACH : Response to Flooding in Old Town Criticized

A group of waterlogged residents accused city officials of being slow to react to flooding last week in downtown areas.

While much of the city’s attention was focused on severe flooding in the Leisure World community during last week’s storm, residents of the Old Town area say, their emergency calls for barricades and other assistance went unheeded.

Seretta Fielding, who operates the Growing Tree Preschool on Seal Beach Boulevard, said her employees had to evacuate 33 children by carrying them on their shoulders through waist-high water to Pacific Coast Highway without any assistance from city agencies.

Residents living on numbered streets near Seal Beach Boulevard say waves of water rushed into their homes from flooded streets, generated by passing vehicles that should have been slowed down by barricades. But residents said barricades were not in place and flood-control pumps did not effectively drain city streets.

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“Those of us who live in Old Town feel like poor relatives,” resident Bruce Stark told council members Monday night. “We were left to swim by ourselves.”

Downtown residents also say that oil leaked from a nearby Exxon oil treatment facility, mixing with floodwaters and coating their yards. Exxon officials are assisting homeowners with the cleanup, but company spokesman Bill Tanner said he doubts that the oil came from the “non-operational” facility.

Mayor George Brown agreed that county-operated flood-control pumps did not adequately drain downtown streets. He said city officials will meet with county flood-control personnel to find a solution to the problem.

“I am satisfied with the citywide response,” Brown said. “I’m not satisfied with the flood-control system in Seal Beach.”

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