Mudslide In Laguna Beach

July 17, 2007
Sara Furuno

A mudslide destroyed 20 Laguna Beach homes on Sunday, displacing at least 45 residents and injuring 10 others. At least one of the injured residents is in critical condition.

The mudslide occurred between 4 and 5am after four hours of heavy rains. The storm caused at least $100 million in property damage, said James Perez, Secretary of Environmental Policy. Clean up will take three months and rebuilding the damaged homes will take one year, Perez added.

Residents complained they were not forewarned of the storm and that the government has been slow to respond with aid. Robert Lecusay, 38, and Deborah Wilson, 58, both of whom own houses in Laguna Beach, said government aid has been inadequate.

“We didn’t receive any notification,” Lecusay said. “There has been no government response.”

Despite these complaints, Perez said the government had tried to warn the residents by mail three weeks ago. He also said that the government will provide insurance information in the next month and that the state will provide housing to the displaced victims in about two weeks.

Until then, victims must find other housing. Wilson is currently staying in a hotel. Lecusay is staying in a car with his two sons while his wife, Ranama Fragola, stays in the hospital with a broken arm.

“We’re just making do,” said Lecusay.

The victims may also have a hard time adjusting to the change. Lecusay, a graphic artist, will have trouble getting back to work. As his house fell in the mudslide, his studio and supplies plummeted with it. Wilson, whose husband passed away, lost many of her most treasured possessions. Among these possessions included her husband’s ashes.

“All of my memories are gone,” said Wilson. “How can I replace my husband’s ashes?”

Carl McKinney, a hydrologist who has been studying the soil structure in Laguna Beach, said that there has been anxiety on the issue for quite some time now, and that it will most likely recur.

“The area is an unstable zone, that probably should never have been built on,” said McKinney. “I would advise against rebuilding in the area.”

But it will be hard to convince the long-time residents of Laguna Beach to relocate. Lecusay had been living in the area for over 35
years, and Wilson says she has nowhere else to go.

“I stood there and watched as my house fell down the cliff,” Wilson said. “It just felt like the world was coming to an end.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License