An intense early morning downpour on the already rain-soaked ground in Hacienda Heights and La Habra Heights led to a hillside collapse and a river of mud and debris that prompted rescues and evacuations for some residents.
Video footage of the hillside collapse along Hacienda Road captured by Sky5 showed three homes on nearby Gotera Road being evacuated in Hacienda Heights Tuesday.
“The officer, fireman said, ‘We’d like you to leave,’” recalled Wynn Harter, who was evacuated from his home. “He said it very nicely.”
With several roads in the area closed and rescue crews going door to door, heavy equipment was brought in to clear the flooded streets so first responders could rescue people trapped by the gushing mud and water.
“Shelter in place, stay where you’re at,” La Habra Heights Fire Department Chief Mitch Brookhyser said. “We do have L.A. County Sheriff’s Department up in the area. They are looking to do safety checks.”
Brookhyser added that about 20 homes were hit by the mud and debris flow, with one home that had water running through it.
“The homes have been damaged mostly by mud and debris flow, no foundational damage has occurred,” he said.
On the La Habra side, mandatory evacuation orders were not issued, but the threat the heavy rains posed was enough to convince some residents to pack up and leave voluntarily.
With so much debris and water damage, crews closed about a three-mile stretch of Hacienda Road.
Kristen Lockhart told KTLA’s Sandra Mitchell that she was on her way to work when she found herself in the danger zone.
“There was rushing water coming down from the hills,” she said. “You couldn’t see the lines anymore. I was in my work van, so thankfully I was able to get through safely, but the other cars coming in the opposite direction were going very slow.”
So far, no injuries have been reported, but authorities told KTLA that several roads in the area are damaged enough that they will likely remain closed for days.
“The road is actually compromised, meaning we have undermining of the asphalt of the road,” Brookhyser said. “We have engineers up right now taking a look at the conditions of the roads to see if they’re passable by vehicular traffic.”
Officials also said that Hacienda Road at Eseverri Lane, near La Habra Heights City Hall, will soon be a hard closure. Residents coming home later in the afternoon will have to get to La Habra Heights from the Hacienda Heights side.