Mud Runoff Hits Homes in Southern California

By RAQUEL MARIA DILLON | December 15, 2014

Mountainsides stripped bare by a wildfire last year belched a damaging debris flow into a Southern California community during a downpour from a major Pacific storm early Friday.

Rocks, boulders and mud swept downhill by runoff piled up to the eaves of homes in Camarillo Springs, a community surrounding a golf course 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, California.

An earthmover that had been brought in ahead of the storm to clear debris was buried as well, with just its big mechanical arm left sticking up out of the muck.

“It’s $200,000 (of equipment) sitting under there,” said heavy equipment mechanic Tony Morris. “It was good at 11:30 when I left last night.”

Ten homes were red-tagged, indicating they were uninhabitable and off-limits, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. Three homes were yellow-tagged, meaning they were uninhabitable but residents could enter to retrieve items. Another three had lesser damage.

The rocks and roots pushed into bedrooms, straight on through to the living room, cracking front windows.

“It’s amazing how much rock actually slid down the hill,” said sheriff’s Capt. Don Aguilar.

Former Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly told KCAL-TV his house was destroyed by the debris flow.

“I don’t know if there’s anything salvageable,” he said.

The neighborhood’s trouble was rooted in a fire that erupted nearby along U.S. 101 on May 2, 2013, as a dry and gusty Santa Ana wind pushed back moist breezes from the nearby ocean, sent humidity plunging to withering levels and fanned flames across the west end of the Santa Monica Mountains.

About 2,000 homes were threatened by flames and 15 sustained damage, but none was destroyed. When it was over, the fire had burned to the beach at Point Mugu and 44 square miles of rugged terrain were left devoid of protective vegetation.

Ted and Rita Elliot placed 400 sandbags around the back of their Camarillo Springs home and it was spared. On Friday they stood in their backyard looking at destruction next door.

“Wow, are we lucky!” said Ted.

“We’ll be the only house on the block,” said Rita.

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