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L.A. County declares local emergency for flash flood, mudslide areas

Lake Hughes flooding

Jason DeBerge, 45, finds a moment of rest in his mud-ravaged backyard in Lake Hughes as the prospect of more torrential rain looms in the near future. County officials declared a local emergency after last week’s severe storms.

(Robert Gauthier)

Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to proclaim a local emergency for northern county areas damaged by last week’s severe storms.

Such a declaration is a first step for getting state and federal aid, and lets local governments more quickly issue contracts for cleanup activities.

The Antelope Valley communities of Quartz Hill, Leona Valley, Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth and surrounding areas were struck Thursday by severe thunderstorms that resulted in flash floods and mudslides, inundating roads, trapping drivers and forcing the closure of nearly 40 miles of Interstate 5.

The damaged facilities included a county juvenile probation camp in Lake Hughes, where buildings were inundated with mud and debris. The youths were moved to another facility. Dave Chittenden, chief deputy director of the county’s internal services department, said cleanup is expected to take 30 days.  

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The total cost of damage to public and private property is still being assessed. 

The supervisors also voted to spend $886,075 to increase the number of emergency winter shelter beds in the county from 600 to 861 and to declare a “shelter crisis” in anticipation of continuing severe storms as El Nino hits, which will probably end up displacing many homeless encampments, including those in riverbeds that will flood.

The declaration allows the county to suspend normal housing standards “to the extent that strict compliance would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the shelter crisis, including the establishment of the emergency temporary shelters.”

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The county is asking people to fill out a damage assessment form online here: https://www.lacounty.gov/elnino

 For more county government news follow @sewella

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