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

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


--Times photo gallery from the scene

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

--The latest rain news as it happens

Comments () | Archives (9)

The word "mudslide" is misspelled in the title. Good article though

Ye gods, a story like this with zero comments? Come in, Los Angeles! Do you read? Over.

I feel so sorry for the residents of LA. Just to let you know that there are people out here who care about you and I hope you get the shelter and food assistance that you are needing. If I were closer I would be there to help you.

southern indiana


Its too bad the Nigerian suspect who was under investigation by County and Federal (U.S. Forest Service) arson investigators has not been found or charged. In fact, I don't think anyone has been arrested and charged with starting the Station Fire on Angles Crest Highway in late Augest, 2009.

There is no coverage for earth movement, mudslide / mudflow surface / subsurface water on the standard Homeowners policies.

The affected homeowners are completely screwed...

This is so sad. Everyone was on high alert during the storms two weeks ago, but apparently no one knew how strong the rain would be last night. Early this morning, it was really coming down, hard and fast. In the lower arroyo, you could see the water was deep, fast and really muddy, and full of big logs and other debris.

There are some places where homes shouldn't be built. On or near the bottom of hillsides prone to mudslides is one of them.

These socal weather systems are of no suprise. Obviously the residents living in the burn areas did not experience the great socal floods of 1969 and 1978 - if they had...well just maybe they would have loaded up their families and possesions and left their home prior to the arrival of the storms. More rain and snow to come therefore more flooding and mudslides etc etc. The weather systems will continue as nature always does.

Does land developer ever test land before building houses on it? Why is this happening in the first place? If this happen in country where I was from, it's not the act of god, it's the land developer's fault, and people will sue.


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