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Water main break shuts down Laguna Canyon Road

Laguna Beach County Water District crews clear debris at the big bend in Laguna Canyon Road after a water main break.
Laguna Beach County Water District crews clear dirt and debris at the big bend in Laguna Canyon Road after a water main break occurred between two water tanks at Top of the World and West Ridge Trail on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Some Laguna Beach residents in the canyon awoke to the sound of water rushing into Laguna Canyon Road shortly before 4 a.m. on Wednesday, and officials said the noise was related to a water main break.

City officials said the break occurred between two water tanks located at Top of the World and West Ridge Trail. The water traveled down a natural ravine into an empty dirt lot, spilling out onto the road, according to Laguna Beach County Water District general manager Keith Van Der Maaten.

“It wasn’t a mudslide, per se, like you would think,” Van Der Maaten said, explaining that with the elevation the water fell from, it came down with some velocity. “… The water went down a natural ravine, and if you go from the top and you look down, it didn’t carry with it any mud. There was no loss of material at all until it got to the very bottom, where there’s that empty mud lot, and when the water came down and hit that bottom lot, it washed out that mud lot onto the street.”

Laguna Beach Water District crews clear dirt and debris at the big bend in Laguna Canyon Road after a water main break.
Laguna Beach County Water District crews clear dirt and debris at the big bend in Laguna Canyon Road after a water main break.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

As the water district, Caltrans and the city’s public works department worked to clear the mud and debris, Laguna Canyon Road was shut down in both directions — from El Toro Road to the north to Canyon Acres to the south.

The road closure did not appear to impact the Sawdust Art Festival, where attendees once again lined up to pass through the gates as the festival prepared to open. A brief visit to the grounds showed a festival operating with business as usual. Franky Duschane, the Sawdust festival’s director of marketing and public relations, said those working the festival had managed to arrive on time.

But just up the street, officers were directing vehicles to turn around and head back into town. A frustrated driver was overheard asking them how he was supposed to get to the highway. Laguna Canyon Road reopened in both directions at approximately 2:30 p.m. after being closed at 3:40 a.m.

Van Der Maaten said district personnel identified where the leak was coming from and isolated it.

Laguna Canyon Road was closed in both directions from El Toro Road to Canyon Acres after a water main break.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“There were a few different things that we then started to do from there,” Van Der Maaten said. “The first is to try to clean up the roadway and work with Caltrans on that and the city, and just get everybody on board with making sure that the roadway is being attended to.

“From the water district side, we then make sure that we are continuing to keep people on water, to keep our reservoirs full, so operations looks at how to continue making sure that is happening, which they did do. Fortunately, nobody was out of water, and we were able to find alternate ways to keep our reservoirs full, so the water system itself performed great.”

Van Der Maaten added the water main repairs were expected to be completed Wednesday, but he did not provide a figure for the volume of water involved in the incident.

Laguna Beach Water District crews clear dirt and debris at the big bend in Laguna Canyon Road after a water main break.
Laguna Beach County Water District crews clear dirt and debris at the big bend in Laguna Canyon Road after a water main break.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Laguna Beach Fire Department had contacted about a dozen properties — both commercial and residential — with a voluntary evacuation warning for the area.

“During the initial response, the source of the leak was unknown, and property damage or the possibility of a mudslide could have threatened the safety of anyone occupying the affected homes and buildings,” Laguna Beach Fire Chief Niko King said in a statement.

Public safety officials recommended residents register to receive emergency alerts by signing up at www.alertoc.com and for Nixle updates by texting 92651 to 888-777.

Laguna Beach Water District crews clear dirt and debris at the big bend in Laguna Canyon Road after a water main break.
Laguna Beach County Water District crews clear dirt and debris at the big bend in Laguna Canyon Road after a water main break.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Rebecca Barber, who said her 97-year-old mother lives with her, opted not to leave her home, though she kept a watchful eye on the water as it came down from the hills on the east side of the road.

Barber said fire department personnel offered to relocate them to the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center.

Paul Bonser, 51, who said he also resides in the Laguna Canyon, had biked into town, capturing footage of the impacted stretch of road with his GoPro.

Laguna Canyon Road was closed in both directions from El Toro Road to Canyon Acres after a water main break.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It washed out where LCAD is, in the bend on the right side next to Victoria [Skimboards],” Bonser said. “That’s where all the water came down. Last night, I was sleeping, [and] in the middle of the night, I heard a helicopter flying around, and when that happens, there’s usually a fire, so I thought, ‘Oh no, I hope there’s no fire or whatever.’

“I went back to sleep in about a half hour, it was done. … I woke up this morning, another helicopter going on. I looked out in the canyon, traffic was closed, so I thought I’d ride down and go check it out.”

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