The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for the Mount Baldy area of the Angeles National Forest, where record-breaking storms over the weekend triggered mudslides that killed one person and damaged more than a dozen homes.
The declaration expedites recovery efforts for the area by directing county agencies to implement all of their response, mitigation and restoration protocols. It also allows for an official request to be sent to the governor's office for an emergency declaration to be made at the state level.
On Sunday, parts of the area received almost 4 inches of rain in a one-hour period, an amount that the National Weather Service said was a near 500-year rain event. It caused mudslides that left several feet of debris in an area that straddles both the L.A. County and San Bernardino County lines.
Karen Sked lives in a house about a mile from where the mud and debris damaged homes, but she said she still saw extensive damage near her. She was surveying flood damage in her garage and witnessed flood waters breaching a 3-foot rock wall on her property. She ran upstairs.
"I had never been so scared in my life. I ran for my life," Sked said. "It happened so fast."
Sked's house was saved, but a neighbor's car that was parked in front of her house was swept away.
Forest Falls resident Doug Roath's home was hit hard. He said that he heard the sound of a debris flow from a flash flood and helped some tourists, then ran back to his house to check out the situation.
"I only made it halfway to my house when a wave, probably 25 feet tall, 75 feet wide, just went right up and over my embankment and just a direct hit into my house. And so I barely made it out of there," Roath said.
Roath said that the flood swept his dogs and their dog house away, but that he later found them alive in the wreckage. But his possessions weren't so lucky.
"Most everything I own is stretched for a mile down the creek, just scattered, and in mud, and under rocks. At this point, it's just a salvage operation."
Roath said that his house was blocked in by 10 feet of debris with rocks the size of vans. Even though he's lived in the area his whole life, he plans to move his family away.
"It's not a matter of if it's going to happen again, it's just when it's going to happen again, so I'm not going to take a chance, not with my family," he said.
Chief William Stead of the Mount Baldy Volunteer Fire Department said that the mudslides had damaged 15 homes and left six red-tagged, which declares them unsafe for entry.
Stead said that scores of volunteers were on the scene, helping victims dig out the debris surrounding and filling their homes.
"We're a bunch of hard-headed folks, and we are used to taking care of ourselves," Stead said. "We are certainly appreciating all the help that we're getting."