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Debris basins, filling rapidly, cause concern in fire areas

January 19, 2010 |  2:30 pm

Los Angeles County flood control crews had their hands full today trying to remove mud, tree stumps and boulders from catch-basins that were nearing capacity or had become full in fire-stripped hillside communities.

Of particular concern was the Mullally debris basin, perched above La Cañada Flintridge. It filled up on Monday with tree stumps and other debris, triggering an evacuation in the community that lies in the shadow of denuded San Gabriel Mountains slopes.

Farther east, the Pickens debris basin – a hole roughly as wide as a baseball field and 40 feet deep – took in mud to a depth of 35 feet in just four hours on Monday.

They were among nine catch-basins of concern in the south-facing flanks of the San Gabriels from Big Tujunga Canyon to Altadena, a distance of about 12 miles.

But the worst is yet to come, according to Arthur Vander Vis, principal engineer in the flood control maintenance division of the county's Department of Public Works.

Vander Vis said 40 crew members are working "around the clock" in preparation for the arrival of an even stronger storm system expected to arrive late Wednesday.

-- Louis Sahagun in La Cañada Flintridge

Photo: U.S. Forest Service spokesman Rich Phelps looks over the Pickens flood maintenance yard as heavy rains continue to fill it with a constant flow of mud and debris from nearby hillsides charred in the Station fire. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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