Mud puts lives on hold in foothills; Monrovia residents get OK to go home

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Reporting that the “streets are a mess right now,” Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab said Saturday evening that the city hopes to have its emergency level alert downgraded to yellow by 6 a.m. today, which will allow residents to return to their homes, with caution.

“The last two storm cells to come through have done a pretty good job at pulling that mud down the hillsides.” Staab said.

“For those residents who have been evacuated, this is getting old. We understand that. We continue to ask or our residents’ patience,” he said. “Out No.  1 goal is to get our residents back into their homes and, unfortunately, it’s these storms that are getting in the way right now.”

The massive rainstorm continued to soak barren hillsides in Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia on Saturday as officials warned evacuated residents that the danger of mudslides and flooding remained very real, even as rays of sunshine peeked through the clouds.

“The experts tell us that thunderstorms are unpredictable, and they form really quickly,” Staab said in an afternoon news conference. “They also tell us that the hillsides are so saturated that we really don’t know at this point what event can cause the hills to suddenly break loose. And once that momentum starts, you just have to get out of the way.”

Officials lifted mandatory evacuation orders in Monrovia at 6 p.m. Saturday as the storm left the region…

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Flash Flood Warning issued as heavy rain resumes in foothill burn areas

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning Saturday afternoon as heavy rains again began to pound the already water-saturated hillsides of recent burn areas in Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia.
The warning, which was preceded by forecasts of heavy rain and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon, was issued just before 2:30 p.m. It was expected to remain in effect through 4:15 p.m.
“At 2:15 p.m., National Weather Service doppler radar indicated a cluster of thunderstorms moving toward the burn areas,” according to a statement issued by the agency. “Rainfall rates have exceeded one half inch per half hour with these storms, which will be capable of producing additional flooding with mud and debris flows in the burn area.”
Those who remained inside the mandatory evacuation zones were advised to shelter in place rather than trying to leave their homes during the storm.

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UPDATED: Storm continues soaking unstable hillsides of Glendora, Azusa, Monrovia

A massive rainstorm continued to intermittently soak barren hillsides Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia Saturday as officials warned evacuated residents that the danger of mudslides and flooding remained very real, even as rays of sunshine peaked through the clouds.
The rain damaged to properties in Glendora on Friday afternoon and sent mud pouring into the backyards of three homes in Azusa early Saturday, authorities said. Mandatory evacuation orders for more than 1,200 area residents of the recent Colby Fire burn area remained in effect, with no estimate of when they may be lifted.
Though the storm saw a relative lull overnight, it was expected to resume dropping heavy rain on the region about 10 a.m., with showers and possible thunderstorms continuing though the afternoon, Glendora police and city officials said at a morning news conference. The storm was expected to exit the area by 9 p.m.
Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab asked evacuated residents to remain patient, and cautioned them not to underestimate the continued threat posed by the storm.
“For those residents who have been evacuated, this is getting old. We understand that. We continue to ask or our residents’ patience,” Staab said. “Out No. 1 goal is to get our residents back into their homes and, unfortunately, it’s these storms that are getting in the way right now.”
But with thunderstorms potentially on the horizon, and hillsides saturated with water and unstable, the danger remained real, the chief said.
“The experts tell us that thunderstorms are unpredictable, and they form really quickly,” he said. “They also tell us that the hillsides are so saturated that we really don’t know at this point what event can cause the hills to suddenly break loose. And once that momentum starts, you just have to get out of the way.”
The foothills near the Colby Fire burn area had received 4 inches of rain by Saturday, Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers said.
“Rates were recorded at 1.3 inches per hour.”
Rainfall rates at or above half-an-inch per hour create serious potential for mudslide, Jeffers said.
And the NWS predicted another two inches may fall in the area by the storm’s conclusion, officials said. Even heavier rain was expected along the mountain ridge line.
The NWS issued a Flash Flood Warning for the foothill burn areas just before 2:30 p.m. Saturday as heavy rain began to fall again on the region. The warning was expected to remain in effect through 4:15 p.m.
The amount of rainfall Saturday afternoon would be crucial in determining when evacuation orders in Glendora would be lifted, Jeffers said. Those who remained in their homes were advised to stay in their homes and not attempt to leave should mud begin flowing.
And officials again cautioned residents that firefighters cannot rush into a mudslide or debris flow to effect a rescue. They must wait until the debris flow stops and drys.
The National Weather Service issued a brief tornado warning for the east San Gabriel Valley between about 3:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. No funnel cloud materialized, however hail as large as 1-inch fell in Walnut, officials said.
The four key debris basins near the Colby Fire were holding up well and were not expected to reach capacity during the storm, Jeffers said. When inspected at 6 a.m. Saturday, they ranged from 40 percent to 55 percent full.
Two homes in the 1100 block of Easley Canyon Road in Glendora sustained damage Friday afternoon, Los Angeles County Fire Department Assistant Chief Steve Martin said. The garage of one home was inundated with mud, while a nearby home’s backyard was flooded with mud that pressed up against the rear of the home.
City officials identified another dozen or so home where mud had flowed onto the properties, but not entered into the homes, Jeffers said. They were urged to hire geotechnical engineers to examine their properties.
Officials took note of 15 sites in the city where an estimated 200 cubic yards of mud and debris needed to be removed from roadways.
Jeffers added that the city is asking that once the storm passes, residents keep the more than 50,000 sandbags distributed during the storm in case of future potential mudslides. The denuded hillsides of the Colby Fire burn area will continue to present debris flow danger during storms for three to four years.
Residents along Rainbow Road at the northern edge of Glendora continued shoring up barriers Saturday. Some were made of metal pipes and wood, while others consisted of sandbags and tarps. Neighbors mentioned they had been contacted by city officials in February, in the wake of the Colby Fire, to discuss mitigation of potential debris flow.
Glendora residents Gary Smith used a break in the rainfall Saturday morning to take a bike ride. Looking at a barrier erected to block the flow of mud, “It looks like it did its job,” he said.
In Azusa, flowing mud along the 1700 block of Ridge View Drive, where officials expanded evacuation orders Friday, became far too close for comfort to three homes early Saturday, Azusa police Sgt. John Madaloni said. The mud flowing through the backyards reached the windowsill of one home, while it rose 2- to 3-feet high along the back of the other two.
“We don’t have any evidence that it’s actually gone into the homes, but it’s certainly accumulating outside the exterior walls,” Madaloni said.
“The damage right now is limited to cosmetic damage,” the sergeant said. Items such as fences and external stairways had been damaged, along with an avocado grove, but no structural damage had been confirmed.
Highway 39 in Azusa was shut down during a downpour Saturday afternoon due to mud flowing onto the roadway, as well as fears the K-rails placed to block slides would not hold, police said.
The evacuation zone in Monrovia, comprised of about 200 homes in the northern end of town, has sustained no reported structure damage, Monrovia police Lt. Zeke Cerecerez said.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Crews made quick work overnight of a mudslide the flowed onto Highland Place, just north of Hillcrest Boulevard, he said.
Officials tentatively planned to lift mandatory evacuation orders in Monrovia at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“We appreciate our residents’ patience at this time,” Monrovia Fire Department Chief Chris Donovan said in a written statement. “We are still predicting some mud and debris flows from the storms predicted by the National Weather Service this afternoon. Once those pass, we will re-evaluate the evacuation orders.”
In Sierra Madre, a rock slide on the Mt. Wilson trail prompted Sierra Madre city officials to urge residents to avoid the area late Saturday morning.

— Staff writer Grace Wong contributed to this report.

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Azusa neighborhood under voluntary evacuation; mandatory evacuations planned Thursday

AZUSA >> Officials strongly urged residents living beneath hillsides recently denuded by the Colby Fire to evacuate voluntarily Wednesday evening ahead of a major rainstorm that threatened to trigger mudslides and flooding.
“The Azusa Police Department is advising residents residing in on Ridge View Drive in Azusa to evacuate their residences as soon as possible,” police officials said in a written statement issued shortly before 6:30 p.m.
The voluntary evacuation orders preceded planned mandatory evacuation orders, which were set to take effect at noon Thursday, police said.
Police urged Ridge View Drive residents to heed the evacuation orders.
“Many deaths occur during a landslide when people are sleeping,” according to the police statement. As storm clouds moved toward the region late Wednesday, “We strongly encourage you to leave your residence.”
An evacuation center was set up at the Crowther Teen & Family Center, 241 W. Dawson Avenue in Glendora, officials said. The shelter can be reached by telephone at 626-914-2357.
Police pumped extra patrols into the affected neighborhood to protect the property of evacuated residents, officials added.

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Three accused of beating, robbing teen in Azusa

AZUSA — Police arrested two men and a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of beating and robbing a 17-year-old boy in Azusa Wednesday.
Raymundo Gallegos, 20, John Medrano, 19, and a 16-year-old boy, all from Azusa, were booked on suspicion of robbery following the 5:50 p.m. incident at Orange Avenue and Crescent Drive, Azusa police Lt. Steve Hunt said.
Officers responded to what was initially reported as a fight when they spotted Gallegos, Medrano and the juvenile suspect running from the area, the lieutenant said.
It was ultimately determined that the three suspects had beaten up the victim, a 17-year-old Azusa boy, and taken his backpack, Hunt said. The backpack was found nearby. It was not immediately clear what had been inside.
The alleged victim planned to seek medical treatment on his own, Hunt added.
According to police and county booking records, Gallegos and Medrano were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail each pending their initial appearances in West Covina Superior Court.

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Azusa man accused of child molestation captured in Lake Arrowhead

An Azusa man already on probation under AB 109 guidelines was behind bars without bail Wednesday on suspicion of child molestation after investigators tracked him to a San Bernardino County cabin, authorities said.
Robert Santos Arvizu, 41,was booked on suspicion of committing lewd acts on a child about 5 p.m. Tuesday after a multi-agency task force found him hiding out in a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, according to Azusa police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The arrest stemmed from an alleged molestation that took place Sunday, Azusa police Lt. Steve Hunt said.
Few details were released about the alleged incident as police continued investigating and prepared to present their findings to prosecutors, the lieutenant said.
“(Arvizu) had allegedly committed the crime of lewd acts with a child,” police said in a written statement. The gender of the child, described as under 14 years old, was not released Thursday.
The child was not a stranger to the suspect, however investigators declined to discuss their relationship.
Police quickly realized the man they were seeking was on county Post-Release Community Supervision under AB 109 guidelines due to a previous burglary conviction, officials said. Azusa investigators then enlisted the help of the San Gabriel Valley East AB 109 Task Force, a multi-agency group of law enforcement officers charged with keeping tabs on felons released from custody under AB 109 guidelines.
Officials quickly determined Arvizu had provided a false address to his probation officer, officials said.
“They also learned Arvizu quit his job on Monday,” according to the police statement. “He told his employers he had to leave the state.”
Details regarding Arvizu’s job was not available Wednesday, however Hunt said it did not involve children.
Fearing Arvizu was on the run, the task force began hunting for him and located him in Lake Arrowhead within eight hours of joining the search, police said. Officers arrested him without a struggle and turned him over to the Azusa Police Department.
According to county booking records, Arvizu was being held without bail pending his initial appearance in West Covina Superior Court.

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Woman robbed, run over by SUV in Azusa

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AZUSA — Police are seeking two women who robbed another woman of her purse Wednesday, then ran her over with an SUV as the victim chased after them, officials said.
The 21-year-old victim, an Alta Loma resident, was fortunate to suffer no major injuries during the crime, which took place about 6:45 p.m. to the rear of a Chipotle Mexican Grill in the 800 block of East Alosta Avenue, Azusa police Sgt. Randy Schmidt said.
The young woman was sitting with a friend when a dark-colored Toyota 4Runner approached, the sergeant said. A passenger exited the SUV and grabbed a purse that was at the victim’s feet.
The robber returned to the SUV with the stolen purse, Schmidt said. The victim gave chase, and the car began driving away, running over the victim’s leg.
Paramedics took the woman to a hospital for treatment of injuries not believed to be serious, he said.
A detailed description of the two robbers was not available late Wednesday, however investigators continued checking nearby surveillance cameras for clues.
Anyone with information can reach the Azusa Police Department at 626-812-3200.

PHOTO: The women pictured in this surveillance photo are described by police as possible witnesses or persons of interest in the robbery.

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Suspect in Colby Fire released to residential treatment facility

A federal judge Wednesday granted a request by one of three men accused of igniting the Colby Fire in the foothills above Glendora and Azusa was earlier this month to be housed in a residential treatment facility pending trial, officials said.
Transient Jonathan Jarrell, 23, was released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles to a residential treatment facility on a $10,000 bond, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said. He is under electronic monitoring.
His attorney had previously made a request that Jarrell be housed in such a situation, which deals with defendants with mental health or substance abuse issues. A magistrate judge previously ordered Jarrell held indefinitely, along with his two co-defendants, but said he could seek another hearing to be removed if facility space could be found.
Clifford Henry Jr., 22, of Glendora, and 21-year-old transient Steven Aguirre remained in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
All three have been charged with unlawfully setting timber afire, with more possible charges pending, and were scheduled to appear for preliminary hearings Feb. 5.
The trio was allegedly camping overnight near the Colby Trail north of Glendora when an early-morning campfire grew out of control, ultimately scorching 1,952 acres, according to Glendora police and U.S. Forest Service officials. Six people suffered minor injuries, five homes were destroyed, 10 outbuildings were destroyed, and eight structures were damaged during the fire, which remained 98 percent contained Wednesday. Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate.
If convicted as charged, Jarrell, Henry and Aguirre, each face up to five years in federal prison.

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San Gabriel Canyon Road reopened

AZUSA — San Gabriel Canyon Road re-opened Saturday after being closed to the public since the outset of the Colby Fire earlier this month.
The roadway was reopened shortly after 5 p.m., Caltrans officials said in a written statement.
The road was shut down after the Colby Fire ignited near the Colby Trail north of Glendora Jan. 16 due to danger posed by the fire, as well falling rocks from the denuded hillside.
The fire grew to 1,952 acres, destroyed five homes and damaged 18 other buildings. It remained 98 percent contained Saturday, with full containment expected by Sunday, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

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Azusa man fatally struck by truck while walking dog identified

AZUSA — Coroner’s official Wednesday released the name of a 77-year-old Azusa man fatally struck while walking his dog earlier this week.
Emilio Ravenas died at a hospital after he was struck by a pickup truck just after 8 a.m. Monday at Sierra Madre Avenue and Lemon Swirl Drive, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operation Ed Winter said. An autopsy had not been carried out.
Ravenas was walking his dog across the street when he was struck by a pickup struck that was turning right from Sierra Madre Avenue onto Lemon Swirl Drive, Azusa police Sgt. Andy Sutcliffe said. The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators
The cause of the crash remained under investigation Wednesday. Lt. Steve Hunt said. No arrests or citations had been made.

- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

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