Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Topanga Storm

Sunday we had our first real storm here in Topanga. I've always loved storms, especially since I was raised in the city and most southern California storms posed little threat to my city life. Sure, neighbors' trees have fallen, but that's about the worst I've seen and it never happened to anyone I actually knew so it was far from my reality.

When a storm is coming I've always looked forward to it. I love the pounding rain, gnashing cold winds and the rare burst of lightning we get in Los Angeles. This past weekend was the first time I experienced a real storm in a home that could actually be effected by the flash flooding and crashing trees. This is also the first serious storm I've been through as a parent.

As I've mentioned before, our home sits right on the bank of a small seasonal creek. The house backs to a steep hill. On the left is the creek bank and the right is our yard. Just past our yard is the creek again. We are surrounded by the creek with the exception of the steep hill behind our home.

On Sunday the rains began. Los Angeles might have rainy days, but rain to us is usually what other people would consider sprinkles or drizzle. Every now and then we have real, hardcore rain. That is what we had on Sunday. It was coming down in bucketloads, and for Topanga there was a flash flood warning and subsequent flash flood.

In the morning, before I realized there was a flash flood warning I went to visit my friend down the road. When I came back I had some serious concerns about whether I should drive across the section of our road the creek actually runs across. It was well over a foot deep, it was moving extremely quickly and I only have a little Honda CRV. I decided to brave it and crossed my fingers I didn't end up floating into the creek. I didn't. This was around noon. By 1pm the fire department had come and put up police tape so no one else would be as dumb as me and drive through the now even higher creek.

Around 3pm the power went out. The kids were going stir crazy. Monkey #2 was just running through the house screaming in this manic crazy way kids sometimes do. Around 6 the power was still out. I made a pork tenderloin and some shoestring fries by candlelight (yay for ancient gas stoves that don't require any electricity!) I decided to go up the road, crossing the creek where the bridge goes over it (to the right of our house) to check in with our neighbors and bring them some super yummy caramel. When I crossed the bridge the water was about 3-4' below me. This is just a little rickety wooden bridge, no rails or anything. That was the highest I'd ever seen the creek. I visited with our neighbors for too long, about 30 mins, I knew the husband was going to be pissed. They gave me a bottle of wine to enjoy during the storm and I ran back home. When I crossed the bridge this time, the water was 6" above the bridge. Now the creek was running down the street toward the other end of the creek, in front of our house. I ran through about 6" of water the entire way back.

Making fries by candlelight, sorry for the crappy pics, we were using our cell phone and it flashed for this picture.

A good beer for a storm. Rochefort 8, a trappist beer brewed by monks since 1595

At this point a tree had fallen across our road, right where the creek hits the road, so there was no driving out, even when the creek subsided. On the other side of the creek, where we sit, it was raging and rising very quickly. A huge chunk of the hill behind out house had crashed down into the creek and we could hear trees cracking and crashing down left and right. It was scary. With night falling, the kids going nuts and our only escape route to higher neighbors already flooding, we were starting to freak out a little. We suddenly realized we should pack some emergency bags and we had to decide if we wanted to try to drive over the flooded bridge to our neighbors or not. After much creek checking and deliberation we saw the creek didn't seem to be rising anymore and decided to just wait it out. And then the power came on. I've never been so happy to have artificial light in my life. It was such a relief! Our phones finally worked and we could check in with our neighbors.

I put the kids to bed and drank some wine, tried to relax and enjoy the fire and wait out the rest of the storm.

The following day the sun came out, a friend, my husband and neighbors came together to cut down the huge oak tree that had fallen in the road. By the afternoon my husband was finally able to drive out and get us some coffee! We had been well stocked with everything we needed food-wise, except for coffee!

A morning look at the tree before it was cut apart. All the stuff in the front is debris washed against the tree by the storm.

I have more pictures and videos, but haven't had a chance to upload them yet. Yesterday and today have been spent consoling and cleaning up after a very barfy and sick little 19 month old.

I found a youtube video someone else posted of the flooding on Topanga Canyon Blvd. The road they are in front of, Highvale, is where my friend lives I had visited during the storm to swap seeds! Thank goodness the flooding didn't start while I was there! And here are some of her pictures of the aftermath.

I don't know the people in this video, but funny enough, they live on my road, sort of...on the other side of the creek. As dorky as they sound, I bet I would have sounded even sillier in the same circumstance.


  1. Great minds! I just did a blog post with the video too. And when I came here and read your post I saw you referenced my blog, so I referenced yours! heehee

  2. lol, that's funny! I'll pop over and read it! :)

  3. The candle in a jar of beans was a stroke of genius.

  4. Yeah, we had these ancient candles I can't even recall buying and no taper candle holders! It was actually my husband's idea!