LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mudslides touched off by torrential rains poured down onto upscale neighborhoods in the fire-scarred foothills above Los Angeles on Saturday, damaging dozens of homes and destroying some of them.
No deaths or serious injuries were reported, but residents had little or no warning when a wall of mud, rock and debris came crashing down sometime after 4 a.m. PST, carrying off crushed cars and leaving a path of destruction.
“It was like an airplane landing on your house, there was no way out,” a tearful woman, who did not give her name, told the local CBS television affiliate. She was wearing borrowed clothes because there had been no time to dress.
Authorities worked to clear the mud-choked streets and ordered more than 500 homes evacuated because more rain was expected through Saturday night and, with catch basins full, the hillsides remained dangerously unstable.
In all, 41 homes suffered moderate to heavy damage, a Los Angeles County Fire spokesman said. Five were tagged by inspectors as uninhabitable and an additional seven were inundated with mud and rock.
The worst came in the foothill community of La Canada-Flintridge, where last summer’s massive Station Fire wildfire destroyed trees and vegetation.
Authorities said that along one street there, at least 30 homes sustained at least some damage from a river of mud that rushed down streets.
At one house a back yard swimming pool was filled with mud, debris and furniture from the house, including a couch, while a diving board stuck out over the mess.
“There are mounds and mounds of dirt piled into homes and cars have been covered up and gone into homes,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida told Reuters from the scene.
The cars “look like toys scattered across the road,” she said.
A high school was set up as an evacuation center. But many residents said despite rain falling at up to one inch per hour on Friday night, they had not been warned or advised to evacuate, as they had during past storms.
Elsewhere in the Los Angeles area, flooding forced the closure of streets and at least one major freeway. A rockslide shut down a major road through the exclusive seaside community of Malibu.
In Hollywood, a sinkhole opened in an intersection along the famed Sunset Strip.
The National Weather Service issued a high surf advisory for beaches across Los Angeles and Ventura County, forecasting waves up to 8 feet, beach erosion and rip tides.
Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; editing by Mohammad Zargham