"A Hermosa Beach version of Baby Jessica," Public Works Director Tony Antich called it.
Baby Wally had climbed into a Hermosa Beach storm drain and refused to come out. Instead, Baby Wally ventured farther into the underground system, and heavy rains threatened to wash her into the ocean.
Baby Wally is a 3-year-old calico cat.
"I felt like it was similar" to the ordeal of Baby Jessica, the toddler trapped in a well in Midland, Tex., last month, said Baby Wally's owner, Rhonda Peters. "I could hear her crying and I couldn't get to her. I felt sorry for the parents (of Baby Jessica), if I felt this way over a cat."
Baby Wally had squeezed out of Peters' car window while she was driving north on Pacific Coast Highway, taking the cat and its sister, Beaver, to a veterinarian.
Baby Wally darted across traffic and, eventually, into a catch basin. Baby Wally refused to come out of the 24-inch pipe, despite Peters' coaxing, Beaver's meows, cat food dangling on a string and nets attached to poles.
The cat was about 25 feet into a pipe with a 25-degree slope, too steep and too tight for someone to go in after her, said public works crew leader Mike Flaherty.
City employees set a trap for the cat and left about 11 p.m., leaving Peters sitting on the curb, filthy after trying to go in after Baby Wally. "I looked like a bum. . . . Here I'm talking to a sewer. At first, I was embarrassed and then I got so tired I just didn't care."
She went back to her Redondo Beach home about 1 a.m. and returned as soon as it was light to see whether Baby Wally had entered the cage. She hadn't. She had crawled farther into the system, but into a wider, more level pipe that was safe for a rescuer to enter.
Later that morning, with the rains threatening to wash Baby Wally out into the ocean, Flaherty crawled about 25 feet into the dark tunnel and pulled out the cat. The pipe contained at least six inches of water, and Baby Wally was trapped in debris.
The cat "was reasonably calm under those circumstances," Flaherty said, adding that Baby Wally "wanted out and . . . recognized this was her opportunity."