Mud flows after rain

LA CAÑADA — A brief but intense rainstorm late Thursday night sent mud and rocks into the streets of several hillside neighborhoods, damaging cars and flooding half a dozen homes.

The storm dropped 1 to 2 inches of rain in less than 20 minutes, fire officials said, enough to loosen the fire-damaged slopes above La Crescenta and La Cañada Flintridge. About 11 p.m., mud began pouring over cement barriers installed last month by Los Angeles County Public Works crews, filling some streets and seeping into yards and homes.

Flooding in La Cañada was concentrated on Rock Castle Drive and several streets in the Paradise Valley neighborhood, including Ocean View Boulevard, Earnslow Drive and Normanton Drive.

La Cañada city engineer Ying Kwan said county officials had cleared most streets by mid-morning, and were assessing the conditions of local debris basins. Excavation work would begin today, he said.

Rock Castle Drive resident Beverly Stevens said she got out of bed several times throughout the night and early morning to watch the weather, and then to watch public works crews and emergency personnel try to clear the street. Fire trucks were struggling to make it up and down the muddy road, she said.

“What is so scary is there is two days of rain next week expected,” Stevens said. “And if this can happen with a drizzle, what is it going to be [with a serious storm]? You just never know. It is sad because it is going to be a way of life for three years.”

Don Reining, who has lived on Rock Castle Drive for 46 years, was coping with a soaked living room and entryway Friday morning. In his backyard, a retaining wall was partly collapsed and the swimming pool was filled with mud.

“Five minutes of rain, and next thing you know it’s coming in the house,” Reining said. “We called the fire department and they came. I already had sandbags up, but I didn’t have enough. And they put more in. They were wonderful.”

At the top of Ocean View Boulevard, residents, many wearing knee-high rubber boots, were busy cleaning up their yards.

Jana Wunderlich was hosing off her car, which had been parked directly in the flow of water and mud. For Paradise Valley residents who were resistant to the installation of the concrete K-rails to divert debris flows, Wunderlich said the flooding would serve as a wake-up call. “Now that we see the water and the pattern flow, we know what we should and shouldn’t do,” Wunderlich said. “Make sure you park 8 to 12 inches from the curb so the water can go down. You just go through it because you live in a beautiful area . . . You just have to go with the flow.”

When the storm intensified just before 11 p.m., Gary Stibal said he and his wife fled their Normanton Drive home. They returned a short time later to find their backyard filled with 3 feet of mud. A patio tabletop was barely visible above the debris.

“We were hoping we would get some small rains so it could slowly soak in, but we knew if we had a major rainstorm like that, there was nothing to stop it,” Stibal said.

In La Crescenta, there was little serious damage. Glendale Public Works Director Steve Zurn said the storm did not hit the La Crescenta burn areas as intensely as in La Cañada. The city’s debris catch basins were not impacted, he added.

Nevertheless, streets below the Shields Basin, which is at the top of Pine Cone Road, were littered with debris.

Among the mud and rocks were a few dozen toppled trash bins, and their contents, that had been carried several blocks down the street by the flooding.

Marek Litomisky, who lives in the 5600 block of Pine Cone Road, was struggling to push his family’s trash bin, loaded with garbage and mud, two blocks up the steep street.

“It was raining really hard, and I went outside and there was mud pouring down the street, maybe 3 to 4 inches,” Litomisky said. “Mostly it was just mud and rocks, and a couple of bricks from the neighbor’s wall.”

Armand Yardemian — who lives in the 2900 block of Hawkridge Drive in La Crescenta, directly across from a steep, 100-foot-tall slope that was badly burned during the Station fire — said he woke up Friday to see his neighbor’s car mired in mud. A group of neighbors spent an hour digging it out.

He and other residents were worried that a strong rainstorm could cause flooding that would overwhelm the street and damage their property, Yardemian said.

“We asked them [the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works] to put barricades up, but they [refused],” he said.

“We are just waiting for the hill to come down on us. Hopefully it won’t come into the house.”


For the record: Armand Yardemian’s name was misspelled in the Nov. 14 article, “Mud flows after rain.”

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