LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — A new wave of winter rains washed over the wildfire-scarred foothill towns north of Los Angeles on Tuesday, leaving some residents to flee their homes while others risked remaining to deploy shovels and buckets in an attempt to hold back the muddy deluge.
Officials issued evacuation orders for 541 homes on the hillsides of La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Acton and two canyons. Parts of the city of Sierra Madre were under evacuation orders for several hours.
Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies went door to door, urging people to leave; those who refused signed waivers acknowledging they were aware of the risk.
"I don't think the danger is that great," said Del Tucker, a 78-year old retired geology professor who said he planned to spend the afternoon reading and watching TV with his wife as rains battered his neighborhood. "That doesn't mean we're right. We could die."
Sheriff's deputies asked residents to move their vehicles and trash cans away from the streets, where heavy rain took residents and officials by surprise Saturday by washing away cars, punching holes in houses, filling swimming pools with debris and inundating homes with mud.
The National Weather Serv-ice downgraded its flash flood warning for the area to a flash flood watch Tuesday evening, but warned that another half-inch of rain could hit the region, where up to about an inch had fallen during the day.
About 60 percent to 70 percent of the region's residents ordered to evacuate had complied, sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
Lyn Slotky, 62, packed a red suitcase holding a change of clothes into her Honda hatchback, along with her nervous Labrador. She said she was afraid that the gnarled branches, boulders and bricks embedded in huge banks of mud remaining from the weekend's downpour would be a hazard as they washed down the street.
Down the sloping street, Maureen Kindred said she was staying in her home with her son to fight back the mud, as she did over the weekend.
"We literally fought it," she said, taking a break from shoveling mud from in front of her house before it could block the drain on her porch. "We fought it with buckets and mops and spades and we dug a canal. We did everything we could to keep water from entering the house, and we succeeded."