County workers set up mudslide protection

LA CRESCENTA, Calif. Officials are taking the mudslide threat very seriously. Materials have been set up in Glendale for flood defenses, including stacks of straw waddle -- hose-like strands of straw that can be unbundled to soak up floodwaters when lives or property are threatened; pallets of sandbags already filled and ready to go when needed; and stockpiles of concrete K-rail to be placed along streets when already flooded.

The slopes above Glendale are among the steepest in the San Gabriel Mountains, and since the /*Station Fire*/, they loom dangerously over foothill communities, from La Canada to Pacoima.

Wednesday, public works crews placed 2,000 linear feet of concrete K-rails down Pine Glen Rd. The steep, winding street lies just under a canyon that was stripped of all vegetation by the Station Fire.

Lafond Lawrence, a resident who lives on Pine Glen was happy to see the barriers go up. "I am a little concerned," said Lawrence. "And I'm glad they're going to do something to maybe help out."

Lawrence and her husband were evacuated for three days during the Station Fire, which burned 251 square miles in the /*Angeles National Forest*/.

In addition to neighborhoods at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, the /*U.S. Geological Survey*/ report states that rainstorms could potentially trigger debris flows to areas in Big Tujunga Canyon, Pacoima Canyon, Arroyo Seco, West Fork of the San Gabriel River and Devils Canyon.

Experts say mudslides are inevitable this winter season, even with the slightest amount of rain.

Officials with the USGS spoke to La Crescenta residents Tuesday night about several potential scenarios.

They said the worst-case scenario is mud and rock flows the size of a football field and 60 feet deep could come sliding into foothill communities.

To prepare, L.A. County workers have been clearing out dozens of debris-catching basins, which should keep communities from being completely devastated.

"If there are repeat storms, then those debris basins can be at or near their capacities," said Susan Cannon, USGS.

Officials said residents should also do their part to protect their homes and be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice.

After surviving the Station Fire, La Crescenta resident Rita Burnham said she's willing to make that effort.

"We're so grateful for not having the fire go through our property," said Burnham. "It's like, OK, we have to deal with this? That's fine, at least we have buildings to save."

The USGS and the /*National Weather Service*/ have been working on a debris flow early warning system, while L.A. city officials have been preparing with different evacuation routes and a reverse 911 alert system, which will alert residents on their cell phones in the event of a mudslide.

Eyewitness News Reporters Subha Ravindhran and Gene Gleeson contributed to this report.

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