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Debris basins clogged by rocks and mud; officials fear more mudlside damage this afternoon

February 6, 2010 | 12:11 pm

At least 41 homes have been damaged on the northern edge of Ocean View Boulevard near Manistee Drive in La Cañada Flintridge, a neighborhood that was deluged by a river of mud, rocks and trees after being hit by the double blow of a collapsing hillside and an overflowing debris basin in the midst of an unexpectedly powerful rainstorm.

At least five homes have been tagged as uninhabitable and at least six other are inundated with mud and debris. About 25 vehicles were damaged and were struck by the K-rails that were put in place to protect homes. At least 65 homes in the area are under mandatory evacuation orders and officials are considering expanding the evacuation zone before the next storm hits this afternoon.

"I hate to say this, but there might be more damage," said Nicole Nishida, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, noting the debris basins near the burn area are full. A Red Cross shelter has been set up at La Cañada High School. Residents whose cars were destroyed or stuck in mud have been ferried to the shelter by deputies.

Crews were working feverishly to clear out the clogged and overflowing Mullally Debris Basin at the northern tip of Ocean View Boulevard and the Pickens Canyon debris basis near Ocean View and Foothill boulevards. Bulldozers are shoveling out muddy water, boulders and debris in anticipation of another band of severe storms expected to hit in a few hours.

Debris basins are designed to hold in mud, rocks and trees to prevent them from smashing into homes.

L.A. County Fire Capt. Richard Baligad estimates that one boulder in the Mullally basin weighs 6 to 10 tons. That caused the flooding, he said.

"It came from who knows where up there," he said, pointing up at the muddy hillside. "Once that thing got plugged, they were done," referring to area residents. He was motioning to where the water was rising.

A forklift is digging away at the boulder in the Mullally basin. But at this time it is only scratching at it, leaving marks.

A public works official on the scene said workers hoped to be able to clear away enough debris to free a clogged 60-inch drain pipe.

The hillside above the homes came down just as the basin began to overflow, inundating the houses in a rumbling instant.

"We are just going to keep monitoring the situation and be ready for emergencies," said county Fire Capt. Drew Smith.

The homes that were most severely damaged are at the base of hills charred by the Station Fire, where blackened trees are now washed away.

--Victoria Kim and Ruben Vives, reporting from La Cañada-Flintridge, and Rong-Gong Lin II, reporting from Los Angeles

Photo: Mud flows through a home on Manistee Drive in La Cañada. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times


FULL COVERAGE OF THE MUDSLIDES

--Times photo gallery from the scene

--Interactive map of evacuations by The Times'' Rong-Gong Lin II

--The latest rain news as it happens


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