Storm causes millions in damage; rescue of 6 people

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Crews clean mud and other debris left by the destructive weekend storm Monday morning at Duke’s Malibu restaurant. Knowles Adkisson / TMT

Duke’s Malibu and Cosentino’s flower shop are flooded with water and mud. The damage is estimated to be in the millions.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

The heavy storm that hit the Southland Sunday brought torrents of rain and flash flooding, causing the closure of Pacific Coast Highway at several locations and the rescue of six people in Topanga Canyon, as well as multimillion dollar damage to Duke’s Malibu restaurant at Las Flores Canyon. Cosentino’s flower shop was also flooded with water and mud.

Firefighters rescued six people stranded in their cars Sunday night as flash flooding turned Topanga Canyon Boulevard into a river.

After responding to a downed power line, a crew from Fire Station 69 in Topanga Canyon came across multiple cars stuck in two feet of water just north of Highvale Trail. Fire Captain Randall Atanay said, as they looked uphill, they could see more people stranded in deeper water. The Fire Engine 69 crew pulled five people from their cars as the rising water approached their windows, one through her window. After moving approximately 150 yards uphill, the engine rescued a sixth victim who had been picked up by a firefighter in a patrol truck. The patrol truck had lost power when the torrent of water had grown to four feet and started to flow faster. After climbing out the windows and onto the roof of the patrol truck, the firefighter handed the victim to another firefighter on top of the engine, then leapt onto the engine himself.

Atanay said, at that point, the water was rushing onto the windshield of the fire engine as it moved upstream, and they saw a truck floating by. The fire engine lost traction and began to float backward, before regaining control. Finally, the road took a turn, and the engine exited the water “like coming onto dry land from a lake or a river,” Atanay said.

Nobody was hurt, and the victims quickly dispersed, Atanay said, leading him to believe they lived nearby.

Topanga resident Clark Stevens commented on The Malibu Times Web site that he was one of the victims who were saved.

“Those guys were super brave,” Stevens wrote of the firefighters. “I have lived in the canyon for 20 years, and [the flooding] was truly unprecedented.”

Atanay said the danger of the situation crossed his mind.

“Yeah, we were concerned. But we had to do what we had to do for those people,” he said. “If we [didn’t] they definitely could have died.”

Meanwhile, Duke’s Malibu sustained major flood damage Sunday night as a result of the torrential rains. When asked how much the repair costs would be, Duke’s General Manager Josh Morgan said “millions.” Morgan said the restaurant has insurance and is in negotiations with its insurance company.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. Sunday, employees reported seeing a “wall of water and mud coming down Las Flores [Canyon Road] straight at us.”

Drains lining the road apparently clogged up, leaving no outlet for the water flowing down Las Flores Canyon and the creek.

Morgan said employees tried putting up a wooden barricade to block the water and mud from flowing through the entrance from Pacific Coast Highway to the parking lot, which sits noticeably lower than the highway, but the water came through anyway.

Assistant Manager Jimmy Chavez said about 70 people were evacuated soon after the water began to enter the restaurant. Malibu resident Sky Stipanowich, who was dining at the restaurant, said she and the people at her table had received drinks and ordered food when they saw “a small wave of gray water” coming from the east end of the restaurant, where the Barefoot Bar is located. Outside, patrons of the restaurant had to wade through one to two feet of water in the parking lot to get to their cars.

Firefighters arrived soon after and stayed until 11:30 p.m., said Brandon Saft of Fire Station 8 in Las Flores Canyon. Saft said there was two to three feet of standing water on the patio outside the Barefoot Bar, at the east end of the restaurant. Firefighters released the water by cutting open the glass walls that protect the patio from sea spray and letting it drain into the ocean. They drained approximately seven inches of water from the dining room by cutting a hole about one foot by one foot in the floor, Saft said.

Morgan said all the carpet in the restaurant’s dining room had to be ripped out. They also will have to import expensive Koa wood from Hawaii, which lines the restaurant’s walls and sustained water damage in the flooding.

Firefighters spent Monday shoveling mud and pushing standing water in the parking lot into drains.

Across the street, the lower level of Cosentino’s flooded and was left with a thick layer of mud. Owner Joie Cosentino said a heavy planter floated across the highway into Duke’s parking lot. Some merchandise was ruined, but she could not put a dollar amount on the damage. Cosentino said they made deliveries on Monday and had the store habitable by Tuesday.

On Tuesday, a rockslide on Malibu Canyon Road delayed traffic for several hours as a car-sized boulder had to be pushed to the side of the road.

Fire Department officials reported downed trees throughout Malibu Sunday night. Monday morning many residents and workers were seen shoveling mud off the city’s highway and roads.

Don Kunitomi, of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Public Information Office, said firefighters he spoke to Monday believed that much of the flooding in Malibu could be prevented if residents would routinely clean out their drains and gutters.