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So far, mud damage relatively minor

Atty. Gen. declares state of emergency in Los Angeles County

January 21, 2010|By Megan O’Neil

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown Thursday declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County due to a series of high-powered storms that battered the Southland this week and forced the evacuation of more than 500 homes in local foothill communities.

Five days of inclement weather has snarled traffic, hampered air travel and forced the closure of schools. In the Station fire burn areas, public safety officials continued to sound alarm bells even as the fourth and most powerful rainstorm began to break Thursday night.

“The fourth storm is moving on,” County Public Works Director Gail Farber said. “However, the weather is still unstable and will be unstable for the next 24 hours.”

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Even a short burst of rain could cause dangerous erosion, officials warned, and said mandatory evacuations would remain in effect.

“Telling a person to go back home when it is not safe and they become a victim is wrong,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, 5th district, said.

Los Angeles County Fire Deputy Chief John Tripp said that search and rescue teams would remain on alert.

“We put the entire department on telephone standby,” Tripp said. “And we have issued a bulletin to all fire departments in Region 1 that have urban search and rescue teams that it is very likely that we will be reaching out to them if this incident hat we anticipate is very significant and if we have a large amount of homes damage or people trapped.”

Mud flows affected several La Cañada Flintridge properties, flooding driveways and yards and seeping into at least one home in the Paradise Valley neighborhood, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Frank Garrido said.

Another property, located just below the Big Briar Debris Basin on Haskell Street, was entirely inundated with runoff. During the height of the storm Thursday, mud ran down the steep slopes behind the lot, spewing over hundreds of sandbags and transforming the backyard into a dirty brown pond.

County firefighters were on the property monitory the stability of the adjacent hillside. The exterior of the house was lined with VisClean, an industrial plastic sheeting, and seemed to be protecting the interior of the home, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Frank Garrido said.

“Our personnel just came in and reinforced the VisClean because of the giveaway down toward the home,” Garrido said.

La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso urged the 56 households that chose to ignore evacuation orders to leave.

“It is really hard for all of us because we are trying to protect our residents, to protect them from serious damage, from death,” Olhasso said. “At the same time we pray that we are wrong. Frankly this is the first time I have ever hoped that I was wrong. We ask you please leave, please go for today as the storms are coming back again. We are trying to get you back as fast as we possibly can. We know what it an inconvenience it is to be our of your home. ”


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