Thursday, December 23, 2010

[californiadisasters] Hard-Hit Areas in the Southland Begin to Dig Out

Workers clean up mud and debris. Highland has 140 homes under an evacuation order. Another rainstorm is expected Christmas Day.

By Sam Allen and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

December 24, 2010

Work crews, residents and business owners traded sandbags for shovels Thursday as cleanup began following a week of storms that claimed one life and caused severe damage to at least 40 homes across Southern California.

Rescue crews shepherded dozens of stranded motorists and trapped residents to safety, but they could not reach Angela Marie Wright, 39, of Menifee, authorities confirmed Thursday. She was found dead in her car Wednesday afternoon, after being swept off the road in storm waters in the Canyon Lake area of Riverside County, authorities said.

One of the hardest-hit areas was the foothill community of Highland in San Bernardino County. There, evacuations remained in place for 140 homes below an unstable 100-foot bluff.

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At least 26 homes, most of them in another Highland neighborhood where a creek overflowed, sustained extensive damage. Floodwaters left behind 4 feet of mud and half-buried cars tipped up at odd angles.

It was a miracle that no one died in Highland, said Bill Peters, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Although the skies were clear for at least part of Thursday, forecasters said another storm could move into Southern California on Christmas Day.

The upcoming holiday, as much as the approach of more rain, spurred the cleanup in hard-hit Laguna Beach in Orange County.

"If it had happened any other day, we would take our time to clean," said Harjit Baggra, owner of Sunglass Gallery. "But this is when everyone comes to buy sunglasses."

Despite extensive damage to display cases, Baggra opened his store Thursday afternoon under skies that once more called for sunglasses.

More than two dozen businesses were flooded, and piles of carpet were already ripped up and ready for disposal throughout the shopping district.

Residential areas also were trying to recover. Dirk Maes on Thursday joined about 20 friends from his mountain biking club — Laguna RADS — to clear out mud and damaged furniture from his home.

"It has been an unbelievable godsend," said his wife, Katherin, of the club's assistance.

He and his family barely escaped as storm waters pounded their Laguna Canyon house early Wednesday morning. Maes spent an hour, in his underwear, trying futilely to clear a path for the surging water.

"The water was moving 35 mph," he said. "It sounded like a freight train."


View entire article here:,0,3471191,full.story

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