Winter storm triggers mudslides in Silverado Canyon, damaging residences and forcing evacuations

A woman shovels mud outside a house
Silverado Canyon resident Linda Learned clears mud away from her front door Wednesday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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A winter storm early Wednesday caused mud to slide down fire-scarred mountainsides in Orange County, damaging homes and stranding cars.

A half-mile stretch of road in Silverado Canyon was covered in 2 to 3 feet of mud, according to Shannon Widor, a spokesman for Orange County Public Works.

Crews were using heavy equipment to clear the road, a job that was expected to take much of the day, Widor said.

At least six cars were struck by mud, according to a county Fire Authority spokesman.

The canyon, which is under a mandatory evacuation order, is closed between Olive Drive and Ladd Canyon Road. Residents can go to an evacuation center at El Modena High School.

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A man carries items from a stranded car
Silverado Canyon resident Rich Pfeiffer retrieves belongings from his car after it was washed down the street along with two other vehicles.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

By 11 a.m., crews had cleared one lane on Silverado Canyon Road between Kitterman Drive and Rancho Way.

As of 1 p.m., no deaths or injuries had been reported, according to a county spokeswoman.

Modjeska and Williams canyons were under mandatory evacuation orders, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department tweeted.

The Silverado and Bond fires last year scorched thousands of acres in Silverado Canyon, located at the base of the Santa Ana mountain range, destroying vegetation and destabilizing soil that cannot easily absorb rain, making the area ripe for debris flows and mudslides.

Mud covers a residential road.
Silverado Canyon residents walk on a muddy private road after a slide caused by heavy rain.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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A car's wheel well is surrounded by mud
Mud partially buries a car after it was washed downhill during heavy rainfall in Silverado Canyon.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Brandt Maxwell, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in San Diego, said there were reports of at least three-tenths of an inch of rain falling on the burn scars early Wednesday.

Around noon, the storm dumped a second round of rain, about a tenth of an inch, across the mountain range, Maxwell said.

Thunderstorms could pass through Orange County into Thursday. Maxwell cautioned that lightning can kill people who do not take shelter.

For the third time this year, mud slid onto Ambrose Jimenez’s Silverado Canyon home.

Around 7 a.m. Wednesday, Jimenez was preparing to leave for work when he heard a loud sound.

He thought it was thunder. But it was boulders sliding down the mountain, bringing mud and other debris.

“The mud just kept coming and coming,” Jimenez, 63, said.

In January, a winter storm pushed mud through the house.

A man uses a vehicle to move mud
Properties in Silverado Canyon are covered in mud after a mudslide caused by heavy rain.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Jimenez, a fraud investigator for Citibank, spent around $3,000 on hay bales and sandbags, completing the project hours before another storm hit.

Months later, the barriers saved Jimenez’s home a second time, with only three feet of mud hitting the eastern side of his house.

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People shovel mud from under a car
Silverado County residents dig out from under a thick layer of mud from a slide caused by heavy rainfall.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A person walks through mud near cars
Mud covers a private road in Silverado Canyon.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)