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Burn area residents ready, braced for rain

February 5, 2010 12:21:43 AM PST
Foothill residents have done much to prep for the rain, and now it's a waiting game to see what the damage will be.Residents are keeping their eyes on the hillsides, watching for debris flow and mud flows.

The area has had a few problems in the past, with soil moving and debris building in the basins, but overall, residents have done pretty well.

The K-rails and sandbags protecting the foothill-area homes give La Canada Flintridge residents confidence that they'll be okay.

"We're doing okay. The city does a great job of cleaning up anything that runs off so we feel pretty confident," said Valerie Williams, a La Canada Flintridge resident. "I have a good gut feeling about this one."

"I've been evacuated three times already, so with this one, we're staying," Williams added.

La Canada resident Gary Stiebal is packing his car and getting ready to leave just in case there is an evacuation order. He says that he's done all he can to protect his home of more than 35 years.

"We're going to stay as much as we think we should stay, but if it really starts to rain real hard, we're going to go down the hill," said Gary Stiebal of La Canada Flintridge. "We always have our bags packed. We have our files all set to go into the car, and we have a storage shed that we're going to take more stuff over to."

Angeles Crest Highway has been closed for some time now, and road crews are warning the latest storm could bring more problems.

As of Friday afternoon, the hillsides, though damp, were in good shape and were in place where they should be.

In the Tujunga area, residents are concerned that if the rain keeps pouring, it will not be a matter of if they're going to face a mudslide but a matter of when the debris will start to flow.

Friday's storm has yet to create any big problems, but it's enough to add to an already growing problem of the saturated hillsides.

Parts of Big Tujunga Canyon road have been closed for safety, much like many other roads near the burn areas.

During the series of rain storms several weeks ago, Teresa Woolsie said that some of her nearby friends housed alongside torched hillsides in the Big Tujunga area had to evacuate. Though Woolsie didn't have to leave, she said that she is still concerned for the safety of all the homes along the hillside now that they're facing yet another rain storm.

Woolsie added that though Friday's rain isn't as bad as the last set of downpours, it's bad enough to cause that nagging feeling leading to the dreaded question of "what if?"

Big Tujunga residents have not forgotten what happened just a few years ago.

"A couple of years ago, during a particularly heavy rain, we had this whole mountain side come down," described Woolsie pointing to a looming mountain near her home. "We saw the whole thing come down, and the bulldozers had to come for weeks afterward to empty out all the debris and mud and everything."

"It didn't actually go into the street. We were saved that time, but our neighbors next door actually had an experience where it did come down and it flooded everything and took cars away," Woolsie described.

Big Tujunga resident Mel Milius swears by the K-rails seen lined up throughout the burn areas.

"I was happy to see the barriers out here to deflect the water from up above. Otherwise if we got a lot of rain, it might take the house out," said Milius. Milius' wife also said she is very thankful for the barricades, because she believes that her home is situated in the line of possible mud streams, and the K-rails have successfully kept debris away from her home.

Residents are praying that the burned hillsides hold firm during the soggy weather. They hope that the rain halts and stays away long enough for things to dry out.

Leanne Suter and Robert Holguin contributed to this report.