Treasures of the Valley
» Mike lawler
Like many of us who have lived in the Los Angeles area for many years, my family has permanently imprinted and associated the image and voice of Dr. Lucy Jones with disaster. She and her associate Dr. Kate Hutton have for the last 20-plus years been the first voices of reason and calm after the several earthquakes we’ve experienced locally. They seem to strike the proper balance between calm and caution for jittery television viewers after one of L.A.’s many seismological events.
Dr. Jones originally received her BA in Chinese Language and Literature, and has her PhD. in geophysics from MIT. She’s worked for the USGS at CalTech since 1983, and has evolved into one of those rare scientists who is comfortable in front of TV cameras. She somehow resonates with the public, and just the mention of her name brings smiles to most. She’s a mom as well and once did a post-quake press conference with a sleeping child in her arms. We’re fortunate to be able to call her a “local” as she and her husband, also a seismologist, live hard up against the mountains in La Cañada.
“Dr. Lucy,” as many of us have affectionately come to know her, is now warning us that debris flows may be as formidable a natural disaster as earthquakes. “In Southern California, debris flows and floods have over history killed a comparable number of people as earthquakes,” said Dr. Lucy in a USGS press release in January.
Dr. Lucy heads a task force that identifies the natural disasters that threaten California, and helps us respond to them. In the last few months she hasn’t had to look much farther than her own backyard to see the evidence of one of the biggest threats to life and property, the imminent debris flows that have been rendered a geologic “sure thing” by the Station Fire. She has been, like me, somewhat negative about our chances of coming out unscathed from destructive debris flows in the next few years. She has pointed out that despite having had lots of rain this winter, we have not had the intensity that can trigger major flows. She has scoffed at some residents that have been quoted in the news as saying that the mountains are solid and stable, and has advocated strongly for those living in threatened areas to heed the calls for evacuation.
Recently I was having an e-mail conversation with a geologist friend about our debris flow issues. I mentioned that a community group I’m on the steering committee for, the Crescenta Valley Community Association, was planning a discussion on the subject on March 24. He said I should try to get Dr. Lucy to come, and cc’d her on the message. A couple hours later she e-mailed me to say she’d be glad to come!
Clark Magnet High was good enough to volunteer their larger space for the meeting, and it should be a nice tie-in for their science and technology programs. On hand at the meeting will be many of the county public works and Glendale city officials that have been working hard to protect our community. The Crescenta Valley Town Council will be co-sponsoring the event.
This meeting is going to be a unique opportunity to hear one of our top experts on our local geology speak in person about what can be done in our communities to prevent a repeat of the deadly ’34 Flood, and to get her take on the efforts by local agencies on our behalf. It’s up to us to educate ourselves and to become active partners with the public agencies that are helping to protect our neighborhoods.
Find out the underlying causes of our debris flow troubles. Come to this community meeting next week, Wednesday, March 24 at 7 p.m. at Clark Magnet High School, 4747 New York Ave. in La Crescenta.