Digging them out

Charles Woodhouse awoke early Saturday morning to the roar of rushing water. Debris was snaking down Angeles Crest Highway and spilling into his Arroyo Summit Drive cul-de-sac.

Mud filled the street, overwhelmed his driveway and seeped into the house, Woodhouse said. But once the rain stopped, carloads of community members, most of them fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, began arriving to help.

Armed with boots, gloves and shovels, more than 100 volunteers worked to remove mud from Woodhouse’s and his neighbors’ properties. Some were on site until 8 p.m.

“The emotion didn’t hit us until we saw how many people came out and helped us,” Woodhouse said. “We will recover from this. This is just stuff. But the friendships, that is what is important.”

Debris flows Saturday caused property damage in several La Cañada Flintridge neighborhoods, including Paradise Valley, the Haskell Drive/Harter Lane area, Escalante Drive and Arroyo Summit Drive.

Nine homes were red-tagged as unsafe, and 43 others were damaged.

But amid the chaotic din of emergency sirens and backhoes, stories like that of the Woodhouse family are emerging — two men wading into a flooded home to rescue an elderly woman, teenagers digging out trapped vehicles, neighbors sheltering the newly homeless.

“I remain so impressed and proud of the way our community has responded to the disaster,” Mayor Laura Olhasso said. “We have had more than our fair share of disaster this year, and our residents have been wonderful in their immediate and compassionate response to helping those in need.”

The Paneno family, which has owned the Big Lots shopping center at Ocean View and Foothill boulevards since 1965, has made its parking lot available as an operation center for county workers. Dozens of dump trucks were parked Wednesday in the lot waiting for their turn in the 24-hour rotation of hauling away debris.

“There is nowhere else to really park,” John Paneno said. “Since our property has a driveway off of Ocean View, and also off of Foothill, it is probably the most strategic spot for them.”

Members of the Kiwanis Club worked quickly Monday to help remove items from Pat Anderson’s damaged Manistee Drive home and ferry them to a storage unit in Montrose.

Kiwanis volunteer Wendy Alane Smith said after all that Anderson, chief executive of the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce, has done for the city, she couldn’t imagine not coming to lend a hand.

“She has given so much to the community, and we are just here for her,” Smith said.

Mormon volunteers blanketed Paradise Valley on Sunday, starting at the most devastated properties on Manistee Drive and working their way down Ocean View Boulevard.

“I think what we we’re trying to do this weekend was just help, regardless of religion or circumstance, people who were in need,” volunteer Rick Callister said. “We saw where there was an opportunity to help, and we have the ability to mobilize quite a number of people in a short period of time.”

The severity of the damage varied greatly from property to property, volunteer Gregory DeVore said.

Some residents needed help pulling up saturated carpet; others wanted to remove furniture. Volunteers worked to free vehicles — some pinned in yards, others trapped in flooded garages, including one that belonged to former state Sen. Newt Russell. Much of the labor involved shoveling mud, difficult work even for the young and physically fit, DeVore said.

“There was a lady who came up to us sobbing,” he said. “She was an older woman, probably in her late 60s, begging for help. We sent people down to her place.”

Paradise Valley resident Floyd Walters said the more than 100 volunteers in his neighborhood included teenagers alongside people in their 70s. It was heartening, he said, to watch them working side-by-side with residents affected by the mudslides.

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