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Mandatory evacuations issued in some canyons with heavy rains

December 7, 2009 |  1:53 pm

Mandatory evacuations were issued this afternoon for parts of Big Tujunga Canyon and Haines Canyon as officials anticipated heavy afternoon and evening rains that could cause mudslides in areas burned during the Station fire. 

Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department are expected to go door-to-door to notify residents, and the residents of 13 other homes will be advised to be ready to evacuate, according to the city Emergency Management Department.

L.A. County officials said they were also considering evacuations later in the day near Ocean View Boulevard if heavy rains persist.

Meanwhile, snow level dropped dramatically both in Southern and Northern California. It was snowing on the Cajon Pass, and snow was also expected on the Grapevine. The hills in the Bay Area got a rare dusting of snow, as did Santiago Peak in Orange County.

Jamie Meier of the National Weather Service in Oxnard said temperatures are expected to get frigid Monday evening into early Tuesday, into the single digits in the mountain areas. That could drop snow levels down to 1,500 feet, she said. “It’s going to be really cold,” she said.

Firefighters rescued a man trapped in a storm drain near the Los Angeles River.

Heavy rain is expected to continue through Monday evening, with showering lessening early Tuesday. But two more storms are expected through the weekend.

Ocean View Boulevard was nearly empty at 12:30 in the afternoon. Some residents are probably working, while others have made the trek down the hill to avoid the heavy rainfall and potential mudslides.

Tony Nefas said he was staying, and with an aggressive arsenal of sandbags, the front of his house looks more like the entrance to a fortress that every child has tried to perfect.

"I'm staying put," the 62-year-old said defiantly.

"I've been here for 37 years. The year we moved here there was water coming down the hill. Our house was inundated with water and mud. I've always known we were vulnerable."

To combat the rains, Nefas placed dozens of white sandbags along the front, but he plans on doing something more permanent.

He said he wants to install steel pipes along the front of the driveway so when storm season rolls in he can quickly place boards in front. "It would make things easier. But you won't be able to use the driveway," Nefas said. "I really want to raise the garage to street level. But the city makes it very hard, and very expensive."

Nefas said he hopes his neighbors farther up the hill evacuate soon because he doesn't have much faith in the concrete rails that currently line the street.

"Things could happen fast. I don't think I can rely on them," Nefas said. "I can see those K-rails being washed down the street. There's a lot of power in that water."

The rain has led to some hair-raising situations on the roads.

According to the California Highway Patrol, there were 132 crashes Monday morning between 5 and 8 a.m. By comparison, there were 45 last Monday during the same hours. Levesque said one man somehow survived his car rolling down 300 feet off Malibu Canyon Road. “He was pretty lucky. He came out with minor injuries,” he said.

Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, said the summer’s historically massive Station fire has turned what should be a good thing -- much needed rains -- into something ominous.

“We’d be celebrating right now if it hadn’t been for the Station fire,” he said. “It really denuded the hillsides from Arroyo Seco to Big Tujunga, so the people in those neighborhoods are really on pins and needles.”

The LAPD and other city and county agencies are planning a town hall meeting at Shepherd of the Hills church in Porter Ranch at 7 p.m. to discuss flooding and mudslide preparations for residents living beneath the Station fire burn areas.

-- Hector Becerra in Los Angeles and Garrick D. Kennedy in La Crescenta

Photo: Frazier Park today after the snow level fell sharply overnight. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

How mudslides form after a fire

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