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Families in L.A. mudslide areas brace for coming storms

February 19, 2010 | 12:43 pm

By the time Dale Reavis considered evacuating his La Cañada Flintridge home during the storms that hit Southern California earlier this month, it was too late. He was trapped.

A torrent of mud flowed down the street in front of his house on Ocean View Boulevard, and mud and debris raged down a canyon riverbed behind the property, Reavis recalled.

“I saw the flood of mud come down and hit homes and cars,” said Reavis, 50.

About 3½ feet of mud swept into his frontyard, tearing up the landscaping and piling up against the entryway, causing some muddy water to leak inside. At one point, Reavis climbed a tree in an attempt to stay out of harm’s way.

“I couldn’t drive out. I was stuck,” he said. “I was pretty scared, and I really didn’t like that feeling.”

So as more rain approached the region Friday, Reavis was not taking any chances. He spent Friday morning boarding up windows and fortifying his property with sandbags.

“I’m hanging out now to see how things go, but I would definitely consider leaving,” he said.

Evacuation orders have been issued for almost 200 homes in La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta ahead of two storms expected to sweep into the area late Friday night and Saturday morning and again overnight Sunday into Monday. Residents were ordered to leave their homes by 4 p.m. Friday.

But Murdock Allen planned to stay put.

“I have no intention of leaving,” said Allen, 77, a retired phone company manager. “We’re safe enough here that I don’t believe we’re in any imminent danger.”

The front of his home on Normanton Street off Ocean View Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge stands 12 feet above street level. During mudslides earlier this month, the house remained intact, but the force of the mud flows pushed aside K-rails, or concrete barriers, and entered the driveway, destroying Allen’s Dodge Dakota truck.

Allen said he would not bother setting out sandbags because the 3-by-5-foot sandbag wall he built last time to protect his driveway was washed away.

An unexpectedly powerful rainstorm unleashed a torrent of mud Feb. 6 that inundated 43 houses and left La Cañada Flintridge's northernmost neighborhood awash in boulders and debris. Thirty-one homes, primarily in the Paradise Valley development, were engulfed in mud and debris, and 12 had structural damage. About 25 cars were sent smashing into walls and trees.

The McLaughlin family on Ocean View Boulevard was ready Friday to hunker down. Despite fighting a deluge of mud that engulfed their home during the recent mudslides, Heather McLaughlin said she and her father would likely stay put, though she would rather her mother leave.

“If we don’t stay here and something happens, no one will be here to try and protect the house. No one will be here to try to prevent more damage,” said McLaughlin, 23, an elementary school teacher.

The McLaughlins home took on about a foot of mud, and they have spent the last couple of weeks trying to make it habitable again.

“If we had evacuated for the mudslide, we wouldn’t have been here to quickly get the mud out of our home,” McLaughlin said.

-- Ann M. Simmons