Heavy rains bring debris, mud to Malibu


Local Fire Department officials say that a “astronomically high tide” and “significant downpour” will bring more mud and debris flows down Malibu’s canyons.

By Laura Tate/Editor

Malibu was deluged with heavy rainfall Monday and Tuesday as an immense Pacific storm centered off the California coast swept across the Southland, causing mud and debris flows to shut down canyon roads, local creeks to overflow bridges and huge waves to undermine beachfront homes.

Las Flores Canyon Road was shut down just north of Las Flores Mesa around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Fire Department when a large mud and debris flow swept down the canyon, blocking the road. A resident who lives on Las Flores Canyon Road near Pacific Coast Highway said that muddy water about ankle-high depth was flowing down the road around 7 a.m. Tuesday. The resident, whose home is on the bank of Las Flores Creek, said he was monitoring the creek, which he said he could visibly see rising, as it reached the height of his backyard, which faces the creek.

Fire Captain Bob Goldman of Fire Station 70 said that another mud and debris flow also completely blocked Rambla Pacifico north of Sumac Ridge Drive around the same time. One homeowner on Deerpath Lane suffered damage, as mud and water flowed through a guesthouse on the property. Cosentino’s on the corner of PCH and Las Flores also suffered damage and “loss of product” when the flow surged through the store, leaving behind a “significant amount of mud and debris,” Goldman said.

Malibu Creek swept over the newly built bridge in Serra Retreat Tuesday morning, collapsing part of the bridge’s railing. Residents and contractors removed debris that clogged up the railing underneath the bridge to restore the flow of water. Goldman said the bridge was completely clogged and impassable, and if residents had not cleared it in time, the creek would have overflowed its banks and homes nearby could have suffered flooding. A home on Cross Creek Lane in Serra Retreat was reported to have suffered damage from water and mud sweeping through the house, displacing the residents, Goldman said.

Beachfront homes were hit hard by a high tide and 6 to 8-foot waves.

The deluge of high tide and waves undermined several homes near the 20800 block of PCH, after part of a bulkhead broke away. Goldman said that all the beach stairs in the area had been torn off by the waves, leaving virtually no beach access. Fire Department officials advised homeowners to shore up the pilings underneath their homes with sandbags and pumped-in cement. Private contractors were called to the scene to assess the work needed.

“A high tide is anticipated this evening, along with the return of rains,” Goldman said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Whatever mitigation [needs to be done], they have to do it now, or they will lose a portion of their homes.”

In the center of Malibu, Super Care Drugs, at Cross Creek Road and PCH, suffered damage when part of the store’s ceiling collapsed, believed to have been caused the heavy rainfall. Employees were busy cleaning up the soggy mess, as workers pumped water from the collection of buildings it is located in.

Fire Captain Lynn Mohr of Station 88 in Malibu said that he was out at Malibu Colony for most of Tuesday morning because of flooding. “Malibu doesn’t know heavy rain,” he said.

Zuma Beach Lifeguard Headquarters Captain Dan Atkins said Tuesday afternoon that, since 5 p.m. Monday, 1.87 inches of rain had fallen in Malibu.

The National Weather Service forecasted a total rainfall amount through Wednesday of between to two and six inches across coastal and valley areas. More thunderstorms and heavy rain were expected to move onshore Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

“[We’re] anticipating getting hit with an astronomically high tide,” Goldman said, “along with significant downpours and [more] debris flowing out of the canyons.

Goldman said some prefilled sandbags and sand that residents could fill bags with themselves are available at Zuma Beach. The captain advised beachfront residents to shore up any areas that needed it with sandbags, but to do it during the low tide as during high tide, a surge could “cause significant injury or death.”

Although most residents were bucking up to deal with the wet weather, Lifeguard Captain Atkins said younger surfers were headed out to surf the waves. “We’re keeping an eye on them,” he said.

Atkins said they received a few calls, including one from Malibu Lake about a boat supposedly sinking. The call was canceled.

“It’s been a strange day because of all the rain,” he said. “[The] system out here is not used to getting this rain.”