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Fierce overnight storm triggers mudslide in La Cañada Flintridge, other damage throughout L.A. [Updated]

February 6, 2010 |  7:51 am


A fierce, slow-moving rainstorm overnight and Saturday morning has triggered a damaging mudslide along Ocean View Boulevard in the La Cañada Flintridge burn area, flooded freeways and caused numerous traffic problems and mudslides throughout the region. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning in the Station fire burn area through 8:45 a.m.

Fire officials were setting up a command post at Ocean View Boulevard and Foothill Boulevard, where at least knee-deep mud and debris were reported. Mudflow down Ocean View swept away several parked cars, moved k-rails and damaged several homes.

[Updated 8:14 a.m.: Los Angeles County fire officials advise residents who live high up on Ocean View Boulevard and its side streets to stay inside their homes until work crews can clear the mud from their streets. Fire Inspector Frederic Stowers said that officials are evaluating whether to issue evacuation orders, but at this time the streets in the area are too dangerous to travel and some streets are impassable.

"We are trying to clear debris so that residents can get out safely," Stowers said. Mud has damaged several homes and firefighters rescued at least one resident whose home was inundated with mud.

As rain pelted the area in the pre-dawn hours, some residents tried to flee down mud-slicked streets, causing dangerous traffic jams, Stowers said.

The rain was so intense at times early this morning that residents reported hearing thunderous sounds, not knowing whether it was real thunder of the roar of mudslides.

Henrik Hairapetiani, 40, an Ocean View resident, said cars were picked up and stacked on top of each other, garage doors have been ripped from hinges and in some places up to three feet of mud clogged the streets and pushed up against homes.

He said he helped rescue his 90-year-old neighbor, whom he found floating on her bed. Her home had been flooded with up to  four feet of water.

Resident Diane Stibal, 68, a 40-year-resident along Normanton Drive, said she saw at least four damaged homes. She made her way down the mountain about 4 a.m. and has been keeping in touch with her neighbors, who are awaiting word about when it is safe to leave.]

In Long Beach, the California Highway Patrol has closed the 710 Freeway at Willow Street because of flooding. This is the same stretch of the 710 that was flooded during storms last month.

Hydroplaning is being blamed in part for three fatalities in two separate crashes overnight.

In Santa Clarita, a hydroplaning vehicle on the Golden State (5) Freeway stuck another vehicle south of Calgrove Boulevard and sent it off an overpass, plunging 80 to 100 feet to the Old Road below. In the City of Industry, two people were killed in a hydroplaning pickup truck on the westbound Pomona (60) Freeway near the Crossroads Parkway exit.

In the Sunland area, a Los Angeles fire engine had reportedly become stuck in mud near Oro Vista Avenue and Big Tujunga Canyon Road.

Near the burn area, the heavy, steady rain also triggered a mudslide that covered part of Fairhurst Drive about 3:30 a.m., but there were no reports of mud intruding into homes. And a flow of mud across Blanchard Canyon Road in the Tujunga area reportedly has made it impassable.

In San Pedro a hillside collapsed, sending a plume of mud onto West 25th Street. Elsewhere, downed trees caused problems on Sunset Boulevard in Westwood and in La Puente.

The current band of heavy rain, which dumped about 2 1/2 inches in La Cañada Flintridge, is moving out of the Los Angeles area. But there were will be only a several-hour respite before another band of storm cells moves over the region this afternoon through the evening.

"We expected the storm to move a little bit quicker, and in this case the storm set up and did not go anywhere" overnight, said Jamie Meier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "That's why we had so much rain."

One rain gauge north of Eaton Canyon registered 3.5 inches of rain. Nearly 2 inches of rain fell in downtown Los Angeles overnight. "And there is still a lot on the way," Meier said.

-- Ruben Vives and Victoria Kim reporting from La Cañada Flintridge

Photo: Mud and debris flows caused damage to cars in La Canada. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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--Times photo gallery from the scene

--Interactive map of evacuations by The Times'' Rong-Gong Lin II

--The latest rain news as it happens