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Silverado Canyon residents struggle to stave off cascading water

December 22, 2010 | 10:52 am

The first rumblings sounded like cracking thunder, but they were actually the sound of boulders tumbling into Silverado Canyon in Orange County.

“When you hear the boulders going, ‘Bang, bang, bang,’ you know there’s going to be problems,” said Steve Eighart, who has lived in the canyon for 10 years.

When he looked out the door, he saw water from swollen creeks cascading toward his house like a waterfall.

“I had water up to the windows in the back of the house,” he said. He spent the early morning hours building a makeshift dam to keep it out.

When he finished at home, he moved on to the Community Center next door.

Eighart, who works at the center as a park caretaker, made dams with wooden planks and parts of fences. “I’ve spent the past four to five hours trying to save the community center,” he said.

Down the street, at the Silverado Canyon Market, Bryn Kingsbury, was stocking up on soup and water Wednesday.

Kingsbury lives on a hillside up the canyon, and the storm had left her home surrounded with mud and water.

“We got up at 4 a.m. to get ready for work and realized we were trapped on our street; there was so much debris that had come down from the mountain,” she said.

Kingsbury wasn’t concerned about her home because it’s built on a high hill. She said she would not be evacuating.

“Mostly it’s all been kind of exciting because it’s all happened so quickly,” she said. “But we’re worried about other people at lower levels.”

Capt. Larry Kurtz of the Orange County Fire Authority said about 70 firefighters were monitoring the mudslides and rockslides in Silverado Canyon. Kurtz said rising creeks washed out two bridges early Wednesday.

He said the power was out in parts of the canyon from about 2 a.m. until  9 a.m.

While crews worked to clear mud-covered roads, fire and sheriff’s deputies were going door-to-door to urge voluntary evacuations. No injuries were reported, and ambulances were being used to shuttle evacuees out of the canyon.

-- Nardine Saad

Photo: A resident carries rocks to stop mud flow that covered the street up to a stop sign in a neighborhood above Silverado Canyon Road in Orange County on Wednesday morning. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times