LOS ANGELES -- A massive cleanup is under way in the La Cañada Flintridge area after more than 40 homes were damaged by storm-related mudslides over the weekend. Forecasters say more rain is expected by Tuesday.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the devastated area Sunday, while crews waded through thigh-high mud to check for gas leaks and start removing debris.
Schwarzenegger promised to cut red tape to find disposal sites for thousands of truckloads of debris that must be removed from houses, yards, streets and catch basins.
He said the three county sites set aside for mud disposal might not be enough.
"They need to clean up this area as quickly as possible from the mud. They need permits for a fourth dumping site, disposal site, which have to come from the federal government and the
state," the governor said. "We all have to work together to help the people whose homes were damaged."
The governor also heard demands from local officials -- including La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso and Los Angeles County supervisor Mike Antonovich -- that the federal government pay for mud removal.
They said the mudslides were a product of last summer's Station Fire, which got out of control -- ultimately scorching 250 square miles -- when Forest Service fire managers scaled back firefighting efforts too early.
The governor promised to "appoint a blue ribbon commission to look into" those claims.
Some 800 homes were evacuated Saturday due to mudslide fears. The affected communities included Acton, La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge and Sierra Madre.
By Sunday afternoon, the evacuation orders had all been lifted, with the Paradise Valley area of La Cañada Flintridge receiving the final go-ahead to return, according to L.A. County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.
At least 43 homes were damaged -- 12 with major damage and 31 with light to moderate damage -- as rainy weather sent hillsides sliding Saturday in areas denuded by the Station Fire. Nine of the damaged homes were red tagged, meaning entry was temporarily prohibited.
The Mullaly catch basin at the top of Ocean View Drive overflowed around 3:30 a.m. Saturday, sending a river of mud and debris down the road, as well as the cul-de-sacs that branch off of it.
Some residents of Paradise Valley barely got out of their homes in time.
Thirty of the most severely damaged homes were on Ocean View Boulevard in Pickens Canyon.
Five homes in Pickens Canyon were tagged with a red notice warning they were unsafe to enter. At one house, mud was piled up to the handle on the front door and the yard was completely washed away. Two white Toyotas were smashed up against the front of a house.
At another nearby red-tagged home, crews dug by hand through at least 4 feet of mud to try and find the source of a natural gas leak.
Some houses in the upper reaches of Pickens Canyon had their garage doors buckled outwards toward the street because water and mud had flowed through the structures. Other homes had completely collapsed, apparently into new water chasms carved into their yards.
County fire Inspector Matt Levesque said the high-water mark on one home was about eight feet.
"In my 20 years of fire service, this is the first time I've seen this much devastation caused by a weather system," Los Angeles County Fire Battalion Chief Mike Brown said while walking past suburban homes with thigh-deep mud in their yards.
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