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Hillside residents fear threat of more mudslides

November 13, 2009 |  1:51 pm


Gary and Diane Stibal spent $35,000 on measures to protect their La Cañada Flintridge home from mudslides. That included installing a chain-link fence, erecting walls of sandbags and building a large concrete gutter into a hillside that sits against their backyard.

But it took just 30 minutes late Thursday night for the mud to flow, bending much of the fence and burying nearly all the sandbags and their backyard in a thick layer of mud.

“This was a beautiful lawn,” Diane Stibal said. “This was $32,000 worth of landscaping. I had just planted my pansies.”

For those living in hillside areas, the threat of mudslides has loomed large since this past summer's Station fire charred much of the San Gabriel Mountains, burning nearly all the vegetation and providing near-perfect conditions for flows should rain fall.

Although the rains Thursday were brief, they proved how real that danger is, especially with the El Niño rains to come.

“This was a small storm,” said Arthur Vander Vis, an on-site engineer for L.A. County Public Works. “It’s a wake-up call for the residents. We’re not joking when we put all this K-rail out here. It’s serious.”

-- Baxter Holmes in La Cañada Flintridge

Photo: Gary and Diane Stibal look out from their home to survey the mud and debris flow that filled their backyard. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)