Praying for a rain delay

LA CRESCENTA — The burned hillsides of Deukmejian Wilderness Park had raised so much concern about rain runoff and mudslides that Renee McFadden bought flood insurance two weeks ago. Now she’s wondering whether it will help.

“There’s a 30-day waiting period,” McFadden said, clenching her teeth nervously.

That parameter, along with others from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance criteria, worried residents Tuesday as rain began falling over the foothills.

McFadden’s home sits at the corner of Markridge Road and Dunsmore Avenue, across from the mouth of a park drainage channel.

Crews recently placed six concrete barriers, known as K-rails, on her front lawn to guard against possible debris flows.

A mound of sandbags sat alongside her driveway early Tuesday, blocking a neighboring property, which was also barricaded with K-rails.

In the event that McFadden’s home is hit with debris, the insurance should help, but only if the policy’s active when the damage occurs.

Not only has her insurance start date been a source of confusion, but its coverage of mudslide damage was unclear as well, she said, echoing the concerns of neighbors who had also purchased insurance.

Markridge Road resident Nannie Collins said she got this explanation from her insurer: “If you can sip the mud threw a straw, you can be covered by flood insurance, but if it’s more than that you’d have to have catastrophic [coverage].”

Collins’ home sits at the opening of another likely drainage point, Deukmejian Park’s entry road, where six K-rails sat early Tuesday, ready to be repositioned if rain water began rushing down the hills.

According to FEMA, damage from “rivers of liquid and flowing mud on the surface of normally dry land,” should be covered under flood insurance policies.

Landslides that are not accompanied by water, however, are not covered.

That has left some residents nervous about how insurers might evaluate damage.

“It’s open to interpretation and you’d better hope you’ve got a good agent working with your case,” said Roger Young, who lives along the hillside on Hopeton Road.

Still, regardless of what insurers say, if damage occurs as a result of flowing mud, as it is described by FEMA, it will be covered, according to the agency.

Most residents in the neighborhood who bought flood insurance did so two weeks ago, which will leave them exposed during the current storm, according FEMA.

At least one resident was hoping any major flood-like problems wouldn’t happen until after October. Roger Young bought insurance Sept. 29 with the understanding that the policy would cover damage from a mudslide. With dark clouds gathering overhead Tuesday, he hoped for a weather stall.

“Let’s hold for 30 days, please,” he said.


 ZAIN SHAUK covers business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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