Storm ravages Laguna Beach

Ten inches of rain pounded Laguna Beach over the past week, sending floodwaters from an overflowed Laguna Creek crashing over streets and closing Laguna Canyon Road and parts of downtown Laguna Beach on Wednesday after the rainfall reached a peak.

Twenty-five people were rescued early Wednesday during the height of the storm. Swift-water rescue teams pulled people from vehicles or homes that were threatened by a raging Laguna Creek, according to Laguna Beach Police Lt. Jason Kravetz.

No one has been injured or killed as a result of the storm, he said.

Thirteen homes on Hidden Valley Canyon Road, off of Park Avenue, were ordered vacated Wednesday and the residents returned to their homes Thursday morning, according to a statement from City Manager John Pietig. No other evacuations are under way, but more than 20 homes have been reported damaged by the storm, he stated.

The American Red Cross has opened a storm shelter at Laguna Beach High School, 625 Park Ave., for displaced residents.

The Laguna Beach City Council is calling an emergency meeting at 9 a.m. today and is expected to declare a state of emergency in the city, which would pave the way for relief for residents and business owners who suffered losses. The governor has already declared a state of emergency in most Southern California counties, including Orange County.

As of Thursday, Laguna Canyon Road was open from Forest Avenue to Big Bend only to residents and business owners and closed to all traffic from Big Bend to the 73 Toll Road, according to the city's website. Laguna Canyon Road is not expected to reopen until today.

City specialists are assessing the hillsides along with several structures throughout town, the city's website stated.

Portions of the Main Beach Boardwalk are expected to be closed for weeks while repairs take place, Pietig stated.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center on Laguna Canyon Road was inundated with floodwaters and all the marine mammal patients were evacuated to other facilities, according to spokeswoman Melissa Sciacca.

"We are so grateful for the outpouring of offers to help clean and rebuild," Sciacca said in an e-mail alert. "The initial cleanup teams are in the process of being established, and when we are in a position to take on additional hands we will let you know as soon as possible."

The city's animal shelter was also evacuated, with cats taken to the Bluebelle Foundation and other animals to facilities in other cities, according to Kravetz.

One Laguna Canyon business, Laguna Koi Ponds, was reportedly flooded out with valuable Koi fish washed onto the street.

Police, firefighters and other emergency personnel were called in to work at 3 a.m. on Wednesday in anticipation of a major event, Kravetz said. Emergency responders had already been positioned by 2:15 a.m. in locations that were expected to be problematic, especially in Laguna Canyon, where several people were pulled from vehicles or had to be escorted to safety across the raging creek. Several residents of the Alternative Sleeping Location were also evacuated, he said.

The ASL will be closed until tonight when Laguna Canyon Road is expected to be open again, Pietig stated. The ASL residents will be staying at the high school.

Downtown Laguna Beach was flooded with several feet of water after the Beach Street storm channel overflowed, according to police. A total of 46 businesses were damaged in the storm, city officials said.

One woman on St. Ann's Drive was reportedly rescued from chest-high waters.

Flood insurance issue

Joan Gladstone, who lives in the hilltop Nyes Place area, said she came home Wednesday morning from a trip to find the lower level of her home water-logged. When she called her insurance company to file a claim, she was shocked to learn that she had no flood insurance.

"I thought I had flood insurance," she said.

Anne Johnson, who lives at Oak Creek Canyon in a secluded home with access across a bridge over a normally dry creek bed, said on Wednesday that she was in no danger despite the water flowing nearby.

"Water under the bridge — lots of it!" she said.

Debris bins in place

Debris bins have been placed in the Albertson's and Vons parking lots for community use, and bins are also in place at Ocean Avenue in the Peppertree Lot and next to Hennessey's Tavern, Kravetz said.

Filled sandbags are available to residents and business owners in the public parking lot across from the Festival of Arts at Laguna Canyon Road near Forest Avenue.

No further significant rainfall is expected in the next several days, according to the city's website.

For traffic information, call the recorded information line at (949) 497-0747. To contact the police in a non-emergency situation, call (949) 497-0701. For general updates, visit

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