East County Mudslide Creeps Into Homes

Mud from a hill on Willow Glen Drive at Hillsdale Road trickled into homes, creating a muddy mess for residents

Heavy rainfall caused a mudslide in a Rancho San Diego neighborhood Thursday morning, creating a huge mess for residents and prompting San Diego County officials to shut down traffic in the impacted area.

The muddy mess developed at Willow Glen Drive and Hillsdale Road after mud from a hill slid into the streets. The mudslide trickled down to some homes in the area, thick mud and dark, brown water pooling in yards and creeping into homes and garages.

Equipped with shovels, homeowners, including Tony Lewellen, worked tirelessly to dig trenches for the muds and divert the water and dirt from their properties.

Lewellen and his family told NBC 7 they began digging ditches Wednesday night to keep the mud from sliding into their home.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. The trenches were no match for the persistent El Niño rainfall.

About four inches of mud made its way into the family's house. On Thursday morning, Lewellen's family was still working to clean up the mess and their home remained flooded.

Lewellen's family was in the process of digging another ditch to direct the mudslide down their driveway and away from their home.

Many residents said they were devastated by the mudslide damage and, quite frankly, angry. They wish more had been done by county departments to prevent this from happening ahead of the forecasted El Niño storms.

“It’s just overwhelmed,” said Lewellen, referring to the hillside and his flooded home. “As you can see, there’s not much vegetation left up there because of the drought and stuff, so it’s like a slip-and-slide – it just runs down the mountain.”

Some neighbors, including Dan Butch, said they were upset that the county has allowed grading on the hillside near their homes because they feel that has fueled much more destructive mudslides amid heavy storms like the one that hit this week.

However, San Diego County officials told NBC 7 that particular hillside area in Rancho San Diego is private property, and the owner of that property had permits to conduct the grading.

County officials said they are working with the owner to address the issue moving forward, to curb potential mudslides in future storms.

Still, Butch said he’s irked by the outcome, and the mess.

Clad in a yellow rain coat, he trudged through muddy water for hours Thursday like many of his neighbors, shoveling mud away from his home.

“We’re inconvenienced. This should’ve never happened and if the county didn’t approve this [the grading permits], this would’ve never happened,” Butch told NBC 7. “They graded fresh dirt, left it on the side of the hill and as soon as the rain hit the fresh dirt, it was worse than fires.”

San Diego County officials said Willow Glen Drive from Hillsdale Road to Willow Glen Way would remain closed off to traffic while crews worked to clean up the area and make it safe for residents and motorists.

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