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La Canada residents leave due to mudslides

January 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Foothill residents are on high alert for potentially dangerous mud flows from hillsides left barren by the Station Fire. Residents already have their bags packed, and some of them have their cars parked down the hill just in case they need to make a quick getaway.

It rained all evening, and for Henrik Hairapetian, that means his house is in danger.

"The main drain for this entire hillside is right in my backyard," said Hairapetian, a La Canada resident. "Whatever comes down will go straight down into his yard and flow over to my yard, come down the drive way, and possibly get in the house."

There were no major problems in the hillside communities yet, but a stronger storm is expected in the coming week and many residents are convinced that the hillsides will not be able to handle all that water.

Hundreds of residents within the Station Fire burn areas are bracing for possible mudslides and debris flows.

"This is the real deal. This is a significant series of storms that will give a one, two, three punch with some rain totals that are really unexpected," said Capt. Mark Savage of the L.A. County Fire Department.

Monday morning, L.A. County emergency personnel will begin a 24-hour watch of the hillsides, and evacuation orders could come down at any moment.

"They should already have their belongings in their vehicles, and another thing we strongly suggest is that they back their vehicles into the driveway so they can drive straight out," said Bob Spencer of the L.A. County Department of Public Works.

Some residents have already left, but others are sticking around and hoping Mother Nature will go easy on these hillsides.

"Everyone in this area is on high alert. Everyone has been passing e-mails back and forth. Everyone is looking out for each other," said Hairapetian.

If an evacuation does come down this coming week, everyone in the burn areas will receive a reverse 911 call and firefighters will go door to door. Some residents may still refuse to evacuate, but they'd be doing so on their own risk.

Authorities say that the mud and debris could come rushing down the hillsides within a matter of seconds.