Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Muddy Waters

There are a lot of things about California that compel the rest of the country to think "why would anyone even want to live there?" Earthquakes, of course, top the list. Growing up in Ohio, I was one of those people. That's just nuts, I thought, why would you choose to live somewhere like that?

Now that I'm a resident – and completely dug in (that's another post for another day) – the crazy things about my home state keep piling up. The state budget, for example, has gone haywire. No wonder; we require a two-thirds vote to pass a budget, which is ridiculous in this partisan society. I don't think our legislature would pass a resolution saying "puppies are cute" with a two-thirds majority.

Smog was one of my big concerns when I got here. I chose the Foothills as a place to live, because I thought the air would be fresh and clean up high and away from the city. Not so. Apparently La Crescenta's nickname – "The Balcony of Southern California!" – came because all the icky air floats around merrily before looking for a place to land, and what better place than an outdoor balcony?

Then there's that whole fire business, which I've covered in a previous post. And now I'm smack dab in the middle of the consequences of the Station Fire: mudslides.

Yes, now the earth is giving way. Not by shaking, but by erosion. There are no trees left to keep it in place, and the rain is going to pummel it for the next several days. Folks around here are dealing with this prospect in different ways.

My neighbor is prepared to evacuate.  She has her bird's travel cage ready to go, computer backups on the table. She has checked the projections for "fluvial flow" and knows that in a worst-case scenario, the mud would travel down our main street and expand outward as it heads downhill. "We'll be ready to get on the roof," she says, "because if it comes, it comes really fast." Keep in mind that we are more than a mile down the hill, and there are hundreds of homes between us and the mountain; but I have to say, I've learned a lot about preparedness from her. Because who the hell knows? This is not something they prepare you for in school.

This morning after I dropped the girls off at school, I drove up the hill to see what had happened in yesterday's rain. There was muddy residue along the side of the road as I drove up. At the top of the neighborhood, where houses face a bare mountainside across the street, there were crews cleaning up a small landslide and reinforcing the area. I could see a few narrow ravines where the water had started to work its way down and into the mud.

Overall, though, it wasn't bad. I was encouraged by the presence of the road crew. Our street was clear, assisted by wide flood channels. I drove home, clear skies above, wondering what would happen later today when the next round started.

Officials are expecting the heaviest flows tomorrow and Thursday. The local television reporters are just apoplectic over the potential for disaster. I watched as an LA County Sheriff drove up to a KTLA reporter during a live report and told her to move farther down the hill. She was just about pissing herself with excitement. It reminds me of the reporters in Florida during a hurricane.

All of this challenges me to keep my chipper attitude. I mean, really, what are you gonna do? It's where I live, for better or worse. And there are plenty of good things about living in California, believe me.

I'm just having a little trouble remembering them right now. And I'm keeping my laptop and the baby pictures near the door.

One of the worst flows this round was just to the east of us in La Canada. 
Photo, Glendale News-Press.

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