Cleanup underway after storm triggers mudflows near burn areas in LA, Riverside counties

Cleanup efforts were underway in neighborhoods near several recent burn areas across the Southland on Wednesday, the day after winter's first major storm triggered major flooding and mudflows.

Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for a foothill neighborhood in Corona that includes San Ramon Road, which was covered with debris. The area was scorched by the Canyon Fire in September, and mudflows resulted when this week's rain hit the barren hillsides.

"The city had a meeting in December and told us that if the rain came down as much as an inch an hour, then we would be in trouble," said resident Kelly Allen.

She and her husband have lived in their home for more than 25 years. On Wednesday, its backyard was one of several in the neighborhood that were filled with mud.

Friends were arriving to assist in cleaning up the mess.

"Mostly it's members of our church. We're members of the LDS church," an emotional Kelly Allen said, referring to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "They just keep showing up and helping."
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La Tuna Canyon Road remained closed following a mudslide in Sun Valley.

Allen said she was maintaining a positive outlook -- focusing on the help from friends, the first responders who protected her home from the fire, and the effects of the storm.

"I know it could be a lot worse," she said. "I know there are people a lot worse off and my heart goes out to them."

Meanwhile, about 50 miles northwest, La Tuna Canyon Road remained closed following a mudslide in Sun Valley.

A packed shipping container, with the wreckage of a small car underneath, was seen wedged against a small bridge in La Tuna Canyon. Both had been swept more than a quarter mile during Tuesday's downpour.

"When the water was raging down this wash, you could hear rocks and stuff pounding," said resident Edward Baghdasarian. "You could feel it under your feet. I've never felt anything like that before."

Asked what was going through his mind at the time, he replied: "I don't know, I was pretty panicked. I mean, my heart rate was definitely up."

Los Angeles Fire Department officials said they hoped to reopen La Tuna Canyon Road sometime Wednesday, but the depth of mud along some sections of the roadway made that goal seem elusive.
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In Burbank, utility crews worked to restore power, gas and water service to some 40 homes in one neighborhood after heavy rains pummeled a recent burn area.

"As you go up La Tuna Canyon, closer to the 210 Freeway, we've got about 36 inches deep of debris that came down from hillsides," said LAFD Battalion Chief Jamie Moore. "Not only are we challenged with getting all this debris out -- not just getting it up off the street, but getting it out of here -- now we're also looking at what's going on up on the hillsides."

The fire department said it was launching drones to assess the foothills, adding that deploying the aircraft was safer than dispatching crews to areas susceptible to mudslides.

In nearby Burbank, utility crews worked to restore power, gas and water service to some 40 homes in one neighborhood. Two-thirds of those families chose to shelter in place rather than evacuate.

Residents below the nearby fire-scarred hills had been warned slopes could crumble under a torrent of rain.

Inside the evacuation zone, Amanda LaValle said she was awakened around 6 a.m. by what she described as "a loud bang."

"We thought maybe a tree toppled or something can run into the house," she said, "and we looked outside to see literally a river of mud with three different cars flowing down."

One vehicle was seen bobbing in floodwaters in a debris basin. Burbank Fire Department officials said it was unknown how many others may have been submerged; some vehicles were carried 2/3 of a mile by floodwaters.

LaValle expressed a sentiment that was widely held in the area.

"Just a huge debt of gratitude -- public works, Burbank Fire Department, Burbank police have been on top of it," she said. "They're wonderful. Thank you, thank you."
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