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Evacuation orders lifted for Tujunga homes

December 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A short-lived mandatory evacuation order was lifted for nine homes in Big Tujunga Canyon and Haines Canyon due to mudslide risk.Although the evacuation orders were lifted, police are still manning the mouth of Big Tujunga Canyon Road where the risk for mudslide is highest due to the Station Fire aftermath.

"I am worried because there is always a possibility because of the nasty fire two months ago and what it did to our mountains," said Tujunga resident Anna Brownell. "We're okay so far, I hope."

Along Mount Gleason Avenue, residents have lined the road edges with sandbags and K-rails well before the storm rolled in.

Darlene Rechenmacher's parents live at the foot of the street closure at the Big Tujunga Canyon Road, and the whole family is hoping that the rain doesn't start to fall any harder throughout the day.

"The rain is just the right amount of rain at the time right now so it can absorb, but in the canyon, it brings down all kinds of stuff," said Rechenmacher.

A catch basin west of Tujunga Canyon in Haines Canyon was emptied prior to the rainfall. Crews are manning that basin to make sure it remains clear to catch the rain from the storm.

Most people who live in the foothill communities are well aware of the mudslide danger, and they know that if conditions become severe enough, they will evacuate with or without an official order.

"I'll probably evacuate," said La Canada Flintridge homeowner Gary Stibal. "When the rains let up, I'll come back and see what damage has been done."

Los Angeles city and county officials are very concerned about the danger to neighborhoods bordering hillsides charred by the massive Station Fire. Concrete barricades have been positioned along streets in La Crescenta, parts of Sunland and Tujunga, and extensively in La Canada Flintridge.

Residents of La Canada Flintridge began preparing for the storm weeks ago, filling bags with sand and placing them around their homes, hoping to divert water, mud and debris away from property. County crews have also cleared out nearly 30 debris basins.

"We're worried about a whole week of rain, and I know this is unchartered water situation that's never existed before. We've lived here for 35 years," said Stevens.

The Stevens are taking the advice given by city officials seriously.

"We know what the mud and rocks and everything can do huge amounts of damage," said Stevens. "We'll get out as soon as we're advised to get out."

Carlos Tovar is doing what he can to protect a home of an elderly friend from further damage. The house is tucked up against a steep hillside. In November, a short, 30-minute downpour sent rocks, mud and debris cascading down the canyons onto the property.

"About 250 tons of dirt came down, and unfortunately, that's the way that mother nature works," said Tovar.

"We've made sure to put some plywood in the sliding windows and doors," Tovar described. "We're waiting for a huge storm tonight."

Over the next few days, the storm is expected to pound the area with several inches of rain, which could trigger mudslides. L.A. fire officials were braced for heavy rains, but by midday Monday, they began to breathe a little easier.

"It was half of what they first expected, so that's good news. The bad news is, we don't know how intense in certain areas it might be, and intensity and duration are the two factors that we look at closely, so we're hoping that the rain doesn't come too hard or too fast in any one area," said Capt. Mark Savage of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Authorities advise that if you see heavy mud and debris flow near your home, don't wait for the official word to evacuate; just get out.


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