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Laguna flood wall to be repaired after breaking during rainstorm

A member of the OC Public Works team walks a storm drain to observe debris in Laguna Canyon across f
A cleanup worker walks in a storm channel along Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach on Friday after part of a flood wall collapsed during Thursday’s rainstorm.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Orange County is working to repair part of a flood wall on Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach that collapsed during Thursday’s rainstorm.

A crew of engineers plans to assess the damage until at least the middle of next week, said OC Public Works spokesman Shannon Widor. After that, a construction plan and timeline for completion will be sorted out.

About 250 feet of the flood wall, which is owned by Orange County, broke down in front of the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival grounds and the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach. Widor said storm water eroded the soil behind the concrete wall, causing it to collapse into the channel.

Jordan Villwock, Laguna’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said city employees removed two trees near the broken flood wall that were about to fall over.


City officials are working on plans to improve the channel between Beach Street and Main Beach to reduce the risk of downtown flooding. The proposed project would reconfigure the Beach Street transition structure to improve water flow, repair an underground culvert between Broadway and Ocean Avenue and reconstruct parts of the Main Beach outlet structure’s walls.

Plans for channel improvements are going through the permitting process and will be considered by the Planning Commission on March 20, project manager Lisa Penna said at a public workshop Wednesday. Construction likely will not begin until spring 2020, she said.

This week’s rain began Wednesday and pummeled the region before easing Thursday afternoon. The city issued an evacuation order Thursday morning for the Sun Valley neighborhood along Laguna Canyon Road and closed parts of El Toro Road and Broadway. The Community & Susi Q Center on Third Street was transformed into a makeshift shelter for residents until 4:30 p.m., about when the evacuation order was lifted.


“We had a really good storm preparedness plan and had measures in place if things started occurring,” Villwock said. The emergency preparedness team sent customized Ready OC notifications to downtown businesses and residents in the Sun Valley neighborhood, he said.

“It kind of rings true to why we have a storm preparedness plan,” Villwock said. “This can happen really quickly. When the ground is saturated, it can’t hold the water and it comes rushing down our channels.”

Occupants at the Alternative Sleeping Location homeless shelter on Laguna Canyon Road were evacuated to Neighborhood Congregational Church for several hours until the rain let up and city officials cleared debris from the canyon road.

Animals at the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter were placed in a higher level of the shelter in case of flooding, Laguna Beach police said.

Times Community News contributor Daniel Langhorne contributed to this report.