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SoCal recovers from storms, evacuations lifted

January 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Evacuation orders for all of La Canada Flintridge and La Crescenta have been officially lifted and many residents have returned home. Evacuation orders for Acton were also lifted, except for Heffner Road. But the threat of mudslides and debris flows remains. Residents surveyed neighborhood damage Friday. As of 7 p.m. Friday, all evacuation orders have been lifted in Glendale and the Sunland-Tujunga area. The city of Los Angeles lifted evacuation orders for La Canada Flintridge, with the exception of one property on Haskell and several properties in the Paradise Valley area. Orders were also lifted for Acton, but evacuation orders for Heffner Road remain in place. The roadway is washed out.

Officials lifted evacuations not by cities or streets, but house by house. Officials posted specific addresses online, with a date and time of when it is deemed safe to return home. Residents will be required to show proof of residence in order to get into their neighborhoods.

There were evacuation orders for nearly 2,000 homes throughout the burn area of the Station Fire.

The burn areas have absorbed six days of stormy weather with very little runoff compared to what authorities had anticipated.

There has been some mud and water coming off the hillsides in La Canada, but sandbags and K-rails have been keeping the mess away from homes.

The rain continued Friday morning, but the neighborhood cleanup was already under way. Mud and debris filled a small channel behind several homes and crews cleared it up as quickly as possible.

Gary Stibal returned to his La Canada Flintridge home Friday to find a lot of water, a lot of mud, but fortunately not a lot of damage. His back yard had some debris, but it was cleared out quickly.

"I'm pleased," said Stibal. "I'm basically surprised that this held up as well as it did."

And the rains continue falling on hills that are already saturated. A week of heavy rain caused small debris flows but residents say so far K-rails and sandbags have worked.

Steve and Olivia Brown's home is right next to a steep hill.

"There's mud, things are full, but we're happy with the way things look," said Steve Brown. "The damage is very minimal, really."

Hundreds of others along Ocean View Boulevard can't return just yet. Officials say some homes could still be in danger. The latest storm also brought chilly temperatures. Snow could be seen at 2,000 feet of elevation in the hills above these communities.

About 75 percent of residents left when they were asked to go. Officials worry that since there was very little damage this time, some residents might not evacuate next time.

"It would be a big mistake to assume that because only in a few areas, mud actually hit a house or flowed deeply in a street, that the next time we're asking for this kind of help in evacuations, that it's OK to stay home," said L.A. County Sheriff's Department Chief Neal Tyler.

Officials are continuing their risk assessment. While there are no major mudslides, authorities said residents should not be frustrated with the decision to air on the side of caution this week and in the weeks to come.

Public works crews will continue cleaning out the 28 debris basins in the Station Fire burn areas, and authorities note all of this rain does have a silver lining.

"We will have captured 75,000 acre-feet of storm water, which is enough to serve 150 families of four for one year," said Bob Spence, L.A. County Department of Public Works spokesman.


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