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Rain falls, but hillsides remain in place

Evacuation orders and flash flood warnings cause concern for hillside residents.

December 22, 2010|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
(Tim Berger/Staff…)

The rain was still pounding away Wednesday afternoon behind the added threat of a flash-flood warning for foothill neighborhoods near Station fire burn areas. But as of just before 6 p.m., no damage had been reported in the area.

Though good fortune appeared to be holding for hillside residents, evacuation orders issued Tuesday afternoon remained effective into Wednesday evening for as many as 147 homes in La Cañada Flintridge and 85 homes in La Crescenta.

The National Weather Service reported at 4:50 p.m. that more than 13.5 inches or rain had already fallen since Thursday in burn-affected parts of the Angeles National Forest.

Also on Wednesday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich declared a countywide state of emergency in order to trigger an assessment of storm damage by state officials that could allow for federal and state assistance if necessary.

An intense group of thunderstorms was predicted to hit hillside areas very early Wednesday morning, but that storm system broke up on approach, blowing east and south to San Bernardino and Orange counties.

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"It was really just a blessing," said L.A. County Fire Department spokeswoman Stephanie English of missing the expected brunt of the weeklong storm cell.

But English and other fire, law enforcement and Department of Public Works officials who were gathered at the coordinated Incident Command Center inside County Fire Camp No. 2 on the JPL campus were urging residents to heed current and future evacuation calls. They emphasized how serious the threat of mud and debris flows from storms is, and will continue to be, for years to come.

"We wouldn't deploy all this for something that wasn't very, very real," English said. "We understand residents are really tired of the message that something very serious could potentially happen, but we want them to know the weather forecasts were dead on. It was a random act of Mother Nature that split those cells off [in other directions] at the last minute."

Officials were not releasing the locations of homes that were issued evacuation orders by Sheriff's Department deputies, but many who received them decided to wait out the weather despite warnings.

Though several hillside residents appeared to have left the area before deputies made personal contact, only about a half-dozen of those asked to evacuate chose to comply, said Capt. Dave Silversparre of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Department.

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