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‘It’s devastating’: Landslides, mudslides damage homes, strand residents in NorCal counties

<i>KCRA</i><br/>Landslide damages homes in Calaveras County Denise Molina said a landslide in Calaveras County rammed into her West Point house this week.
Landslide damages homes in Calaveras County Denise Molina said a landslide in Calaveras County rammed into her West Point house this week.

By Orko Manna

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    WEST POINT, California (KCRA) — As California dries out following the recent rain and snowstorms, the effects of the wet winter weather culminated in an apparent landslide in Calaveras County and a mudslide in Tuolumne County.

KCRA 3 spoke to people impacted in both communities about the damage they are seeing, and how they are trying to move forward in the wake of the damage.

Landslide damages homes in Calaveras County Denise Molina said a landslide in Calaveras County rammed into her West Point house this week. She and her husband, Carlos, were not home at the time, but they saw the damage to their home through a surveillance camera.

Molina said they passed by the broken asphalt on Barney Way on Wednesday to check out the damage. Cell phone images given to KCRA 3 show that the ground and some trees broke through Molina’s retaining wall, and all of the debris is currently pushing into the side of the home.

“The whole bedroom downstairs, the wall from the window underneath the beds, came out and pushed one of the bunkbeds,” Molina said. “The whole landslide looked like it fell down into our home.”

Molina said her home has been yellow-tagged. She has contacted her insurance, but the future is still uncertain. She and her husband had just finished remodeling the property, which she said makes the damage even more disheartening.

“Just talking about it, I feel like I’m going to cry,” Molina said. “This is the home that we love, and we plan on going out there and spending the rest of our grandma and grandpa days. It’s devastating.”

Calaveras County Sheriff Greg Stark said Barney Way was partially washed away. When KCRA 3 asked if officials were classifying it as a landslide, Stark said in an email, “More like road erosion. Calaveras OES is taking the lead.” Calaveras County OES officials told KCRA 3 they will be sending an update on the situation on Friday.

Mudslide in Tuolumne County strands entire rural community Several people who live off of Italian Bar Road in Tuolumne County, just a few miles outside Twain Harte, contacted KCRA 3 after a mudslide impacted roads and homes in the area. One KCRA 3 viewer sent photos showing a home that was severely damaged in the mudslide.

Resident Pat Haley said that there are about 50 properties in the area that are cut off due the mudslide covering the road.

“The road is completely blocked by about a thousand feet of hillside and a number of trees that down across the road,” Haley said. “We’re effectively blocked in here. There’s no other access out of our area to town, or from town out to our area.”

Haley did a Zoom interview with KCRA 3 from right next to the mudslide and described the situation as he saw it.

“It’s probably two, three feet deep,” Haley said. “The width of the blockage is probably 50 yards, maybe.”

Haley said he was doing what he could to help his neighbors, including shuttling some of them who had decided to try and hike around the mudslide to get in between their homes and Twain Harte. One of those people was Josh Brockett, who owns a plant nursery business in Twain Harte.

“I left my truck in town and walked around the mudslide, and then my neighbor Pat picked me up on the other side and gave me a ride home,” Brockett said. “I had to trek through the snow, walk the creek drainage below the bottom of the mudslide and then pop back up on the road on the other side.”

Brockett said he will continue to do that to get to work until the mudslide is cleared.

“It’s part of living in the mountains,” Brockett said. “We expect to live through harsh conditions, but like I said, this is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

What is next for those affected by the landslide and mudslide? Tuolumne County is one of the 34 counties in California that are part of a federal disaster declaration issues by President Joe Biden, at the request of California Gov. Gavin Newsom. FEMA announced that federal disaster assistance would be available to residents of those counties “due to emergency conditions resulting from severe winter storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides beginning March 9, 2023, and continuing.”

However, Calaveras County is not included in that disaster declaration. Homeowners in Calaveras County who were impacted by the recent landslide told KCRA 3 they called FEMA, but were told there was little that FEMA could do because the county is not included.

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