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Laguna Beach lifts evacuation orders

December 23, 2010 |  9:03 am

Evacuation orders were lifted in Laguna Beach on Thursday morning, but some homes and businesses suffered substantial damage and access to a few largely residential areas remains impeded by mudslides caused by heavy rain over the last week.

Crews were scrambling to get the downtown area fully open for business in hopes of salvaging what's left of the holiday shopping season. Mud and water flows damaged 26 businesses, but most if not all expect to be open, said Lt. Jason Kravetz of the Laguna Beach Police Department.

“We encourage people to finish their Christmas shopping in Laguna Beach,” Kravetz said.

To get to the city, visitors will need to use Pacific Coast Highway. Laguna Canyon Road remains closed as bulldozers work to push mud off the asphalt.

Much of the structural damage occurred along Laguna Canyon Road, which is open only to residents through checkpoints. Other streets with damaged homes include Sun Valley Drive, Griffith Way and  Stans Lane. Officials know of 18 homes with damage so far.

Because geologists feared a landslide, authorities ordered the evacuation of 13 homes along Hidden Canyon Valley Road, but they rescinded that order around 8 a.m. Thursday morning. Using aerial footage, KTLA-Channel 5 reported damaged homes along Hidden Valley Canyon Road, but city officials could not confirm that.

A shelter for the homeless also had to be evacuated. It wasn’t damaged but it remains inaccessible, forcing 45 occupants into the local high school gym. An additional 15 residents also spent the night there, Kravetz said.

It wasn’t just humans who had to scramble to safety. Also evacuated was an animal shelter and an adjacent marine mammal shelter; both structures suffered damage. All the animals were transported to other facilities.

Wednesday’s rain caused some perilous moments, with 25 people being rescued from the water, stranded cars and flooded homes. Some two dozen fire trucks responded from all over Orange County to assist. And the city summoned in most of its police force to help wherever needed.

Thursday morning brought cloudy but dry weather.

“We’re going to focus on our cleanup today,” Kravetz said.

In an event apparently unrelated to the weather, an SUV struck and killed a 46-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita woman in Laguna Beach. The 56-year-old driver was not arrested, but the accident remains under investigation.

No injuries related to the rain have been reported.

ALSO:

Laguna Beach cleans up after mud flows

Next storm could move into L.A. on Christmas Day

Firefighters rescue victims trapped in flooded Palmdale street

-- Howard Blume

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