By Mary O’KEEFE
The rain came.
Crescenta Valley got wet but no flood and no mud – this time. The first storm of the post Station Fire season began with sprinkles on Tuesday and continued with a slow, soft rain throughout Wednesday.
All agencies were on alert as the rain trickled onto the ashen hills. Crescenta Valley Sheriff personnel went door to door to homes that had been previously identified as being most vulnerable to flood and mud slides. The Angeles National Forest roads including Big Tujunga and Little Tujunga were closed to all vehicles by Los Angeles County Public Works. The county office had employees driving through neighborhoods and inspecting debris basins throughout the night. Glendale public works were also out in force along with police and fire departments identifying evacuation routes. Many residents reported that television crew vans were parked in their neighborhoods, generators running and cameras at the ready for evacuations. But residents remained in their sandbagged/K-rail surrounded homes.
“The rainfall wasn’t hard enough to cause the mud to slide,” said Susan Cannon, geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.
The USGS has scientific instruments throughout the burn area. The instruments that had been placed in Deukmejian Wilderness Park measured 2.5 inches in 16 hours, Cannon said.
“We were lucky. If it had been that much rain in a shorter period of time it would have been a different [outcome]. What we saw was the highest amount of rain that [fell] measured about a quarter of an inch in one hour,” she added.
During a recent flood information meeting at Rosemont Middle School, Chris Stone, assistant deputy director of L.A. County Public Works, told residents that the first rain may not cause the flooding and mud slides.
“If you look at the history of burned areas, you will see that many of the flooding happens up to three years from the original fire,” Stone said. Cannon agreed with his assessment at the meeting and said that despite the rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, the danger is still there. “Sadly nothing has changed. One thing I have heard people saying is that with the light rain at least the ash is washed off. That might have made things worse. Ash can absorb moisture, like a sponge, and now that may be gone. And the channel beds have gotten wet which makes it easier for them to erode,” she said.
Her advice to community members is to keep sandbagging. Crescenta Valley Town Council President Steve Pierce was busy on Tuesday at Two Strike Park as residents came by to fill up sandbags.
“You have to bring your own bags, which you can get at local fire stations, then come here to fill them,” Pierce said.
County workers filled and refilled the large dispensing dirt bin several times on Tuesday and Wednesday as residents continued the parade of sandbags. A neighbor near the park walked over to see if anyone needed help filling bags. That camaraderie was seen throughout Crescenta Valley as community members came out to help fill and line neighbor’s driveways with bags. “That’s what we do here, we help neighbors,” Pierce said.
Greg Cook lives in the Quail Canyon area, close to the burned out hillsides. He has been impressed with the attitude and actions of Glendale Public Works.
Concerned about his neighborhood, Cook contacted the city’s Director of Public Works Steve Zurn.
“He came up and met with us, 11 out of 14 residents. We told him our concerns that we wanted more sandbags and thought a K-rail was needed,” Cook said.
A few days later a crew brought the neighbors sandbags and placed another piece of K-rail.
“These guys have done an incredible job. They have been proactive instead of reactive,” Cook said.
Being proactive will be important as the winter weather moves in, along with more expected rains.
“A moderate to weak El Nino is [predicted],” said Bill Patzert, climatologist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. El Nino is the warming of the ocean which is generally accompanied by heavier than normal rains. For many in Southern California, the term El Nino conjures up memories of the 1980s floods when the L.A. River overflowed and houses slid down hillsides. “But all El Nino’s are not created equal. We had a similar weak-to-moderate El Nino in the winter of 2006-2007 and that was the driest winter in 130 years,” Patzert said.
Patzert added that a weak or moderate rain system will affect the burned area. “Some of the forest that burned in Angeles National Forest was 60 years old some even 100 years old. The fire was hot
and slow and it created a lot of ash, soot and debris. Eventually that debris is going to make its way down the hillside,” he said.
Glendale city and L.A. county public works departments are not taking this light rain for granted. They are still continuing their debris basin watch and placing K-rails where needed.
“We had no report of any significant issues. The catch basins worked and the flood channels worked,” reported Gary Bozé, spokesman for county public works, of the wet weather. “That’s good news but we continue to monitor the area,”
Volunteers are needed to fill sandbags at Two Strike Park beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
The city of Glendale Parks and Recreation is asking volunteers to assist with filling sandbags. The event will be held at Dunsmore Park in the lower parking lot from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 24. For information, contact Iris Hidalgo, (818) 548-2782 or Jeff Weinstein at (818) 550-4478.
Volunteers should wear sturdy closed toe shoes and bring gloves. Some shovels will be provided.
Empty sandbags are available at local L.A. County Fire Departments. Sand or dirt is available at Two Strike Park. Filled sandbags can be found at Dunsmore Park.
Sandbags are available to purchase at: Bonners Rental Center for $1.50 each plus tax and delivery is available for $25 for up to 400 bags. Bonners Rental Center, (818) 951-9117, 6935 Foothill Blvd. in Tujunga.
At Glendale Builders Supply, if the customer mentions Crescenta Valley Weekly, they will receive a 10% discount. CV Weekly readers pay 36 cents for empty bags, $1.50 per filled sandbag. Free delivery.