Caught by surprise: the flood of 2010

By Robin Goldsworthy

Devastation that we had hoped we would never see but most of us prepared for did indeed happen this weekend. With heavier than expected rains pelting the foothill area, the Mullally debris basin overflowed sending torrents of mud and gunk into the Sagebrush area of La Cañada. At present, more than 40 homes are reportedly damaged with nine being red tagged.

On Friday night, when the rains started, I was at the Glendale Education Foundation’s Dancing with Diamonds fundraiser. Though it was wet and cold outside, I didn’t hear nor did I offer much more than a passing remark about the weather. A sense of foreboding wasn’t present as we celebrated the foundation’s achievements, ate a great meal and danced to Bob’s yer Uncle.

Mary O’Keefe sat up Friday into Saturday, waiting to go to bed when the rain let up. Needless to say, she didn’t ever go to sleep. She started texting me around 4:30 Saturday morning with the first of many updates regarding the non-stop weather.

At 6 a.m., my husband Steve, who is a volunteer with the sheriff’s department, was called out to start directing traffic around streets that were quickly becoming impassable.

By 7:30 a.m., word was getting out that the top of Ocean View had been hit and hit hard. Mary and Charly Shelton donned wet weather gear, waterproof cameras and took off to see what was happening. They would call in with information and I would formulate into a news story and then would post on the website and send out in our e-blasts. (If you would like to get these blasts, send me an e-mail at robin@cvweekly. com and write “Add me to the blast zone” in the body of the message.)

Though much of the damage occurred north of Foothill, below got hit too. On Montrose Avenue, a small wall was breached that surrounded a swimming pool, allowing firewood and mud to pour in. Even as far south as Broadview below Honolulu at Ocean View, mud and rocks were found strewn about, carried all the way done the hill.

On Sunday afternoon, in sunny skies I flew over the foothill area taking aerial shots and video. Later in the afternoon, Steve and I drove up Ocean View Boulevard into the Paradise Valley area. The first thing I noticed was the smell. It was of fresh dirt like when you till a garden. Second, I saw lots of folks walking down hill with shovels, wheelbarrows and buckets. These were people there to help out, to lend a hand. Some were from LDS members, Mormons, who heeded the call that neighbors were in need.

As we climbed higher, I saw mounds of mud pushed to the side of the road, like when it snows and the plows clear the road. Then the damage to the houses became more and more apparent.

Garage doors were ripped from their hinges, front doors stood ajar offering a view of the mud inside and vehicles were perched in odd places, some having smashed into another.

On Manistee Drive, where the path of the Mullally debris basin overflow was initiated, I saw three of the nine houses that were totaled. I know the owner of one, Pat Anderson, the president and CEO of the La Cañada Chamber of Commerce. I spoke briefly with Pat who was resigned to the situation. She’s lived up here since ’71 and was here during the fire of ’75 and the flood of ’78.

Both Pat and her neighbor Greg Champion couldn’t say enough about one person, however: Steve Brown. Steve and his wife Olivia with their children live a couple of blocks below Pat on Ocean View Boulevard. Long time friends of Pat, Steve drove to her house after the first flood early Saturday morning, pulling her from her collapsed home. I’ve known the Browns, specifically Olivia, for some time as we have kids the same age who attend the same school. The Browns had done some heavy duty reinforcing of their property and suffered minimal exterior damage.

As we headed down the hill, the shock of everything we saw sat heavy on me. I took solace in that no one was injured but had difficulty coping with the magnitude of the damage.

I have a deep sense of gratitude for everyone who has reached out to help and it reminds me yet again of what a wonderful community in which I live.