Mudslides caused by rain force homeowners to evacuate


Joan and Webb Nimick have their suitcases packed. They know that if rain comes to La Jolla again, they are going to have to grab what they can and leave their home as soon as possible.

The Nimicks live at the end of Fenn Way on Mount Soledad. Theirs is the highest residential property on the hill, if not in La Jolla. Their view is spectacular. However, they have had to pay for their perch in recent years with unprecedented exposure to the elements.

“When the fires were through, they came and cleared the mountainside,” said Joan Nimick. “Of course, that left the hillside now with nothing to hold the silt. (After the recent rain,) the silt came down in tremendous quantities. ... We had layers of silt and mud downstairs.”

Bob Giaccaglia of the San Diego Development Services is charged with compiling a spreadsheet of all the homes in San Diego affected by the recent wet weather. The Nimicks were one of almost a dozen households in La Jolla to be red-tagged last week by city engineering geologists, meaning they were unsafe for occupation.

Two separate incidents were to blame for substantial property damage and evacuations from residences on Mount Soledad. On Feb. 24, a chunk of the hillside just below Via Capri gave way and slid violently towards two houses directly below on Caminito Prado. Kedar Pyatt, who lives in one of the homes on the lower thoroughfare, was standing in his kitchen looking up at the unstable mountainside when trees, mud and water started to pour into his back yard.

“There was no noise at all,” said Pyatt. “I looked up and there was sort of a curl appearing in the ice plant and then suddenly everything started sliding. Frankly, I probably should have panicked and run, but I was mesmerized by the whole thing. I sat there and watched it until it stopped.”

The pile of debris slid right up to Pyatt’s kitchen door, bringing several large trees with it. One of these destroyed his shed, another tree punctured a window of his neighbor’s house. The damage added to the several inches of silt that had crept down the mountain and washed into the Pyatt’s home the night before.

Fire Department spokesman Maurice Luque said the mudslide at Caminito Prado was exacerbated by a broken storm drain that led to a build-up of water at the affected site.

Luque said the damage at the homes has so far been limited to aesthetic, rather than structural problems, but warned that situation might change if heavy rains continue. Only one home