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Woman refuses to evacuate despite mudslide warnings

December 15, 2008 |  2:42 pm

Along Via de Lomas Yorba West across from Box Canyon, Michele Zenk chose not to heed an evacuation order. With her husband out of town and her two children at school, Zenk was hoping to wrap Christmas gifts, make a lasagna and juggle other holiday chores, all while making runs into the backyard to make sure the drains around the property were not getting clogged.

"Once you leave, you can't come back," said Zenk, who like many of her neighbors has been through this drill too many times to count. "This is not a good time of year to get stuck in your home."

Zenk had already soaked two pairs of tennis shoes by running outside to keep any eye on the drains ...


... so when a friend called from a Target store, she asked her to pick up a pair of boots. Zenk's backyard sits below a ridge of homes about four stories high above her home. One of those homes was burned in the fires, and when firefighters were hosing it down, a tree was uprooted and came sliding down.

It came to a stop right at a back window, along with mud that mounted to 4 feet in some places. Zenk said they have had workers over nearly every day since then, reinstalling sprinklers that melted, clearing the backyard and securing the badly singed and steep slope leading into it with sandbags, plastic and hydroseeding.

Zenk said her husband estimated they have spent up to $10,000. "In fire, I leave. For mud, I don't know if we're going to have much more of a problem. Hopefully, the worst of it is over," she said. "You know what? I have a house, so I don't have any complaints."

-- Christine Hanley