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Homes Flooded : South Bay Bails Out After Storm

February 04, 1988|ANDREA ESTEPA | Times Staff Writer

The inconveniences caused by Tuesday's storm were short-lived for most San Diegans, who woke up Wednesday morning to find the sun out, the roads open and the electricity on.

But for a small group of South Bay residents, the damage caused by an unprecedented 4-inch downpour will take weeks of work and thousands of dollars to repair.

"If this is America's finest city, God help the second-finest," said Jack McKindsey, who estimated that $50,000 in damage had been done by the 4 feet of water that flooded his South San Diego home on Paxton Drive, just south of Coronado Avenue between Interstate 5 and Beyer Boulevard.

"We just put in new carpeting four months ago and that's ruined," McKindsey said. "The furniture's shot. Anything you can name, that's under 4 feet high--the refrigerator, the stove, the microwave. It's all ruined."

William Neumann, director of disaster services for the San Diego-Imperial County branch of the Red Cross, estimated that the storm caused $250,000 to $500,000 in damage to homes in low-lying areas of San Ysidro, Imperial Beach and South San Diego.

"Where it did do damage, it was pretty severe," Neumann said. "It wasn't structural damage for the most part, but furniture and carpeting."

Emergency Housing

The Red Cross placed 30 families in emergency housing Tuesday night, and expected to house a few more families Wednesday.

"There's no way they can live in these places," Neumann said. "When the water went down it left a lot of mud and a lot of garbage."

Donald and Julie Mulligan, who moved to a house on Lauriston Drive in South San Diego a year ago after retiring from the U.S. Foreign Service, were among the families the Red Cross sheltered Tuesday night at local motels.

Julie Mulligan said that she and her husband had lived in nine countries without ever having been threatened by a flood.

The 5-foot-4 woman said that at its highest point, the water came up to her chest.

"It was inconceivable that this could be happening to me," she said. "I thought, at the age of 60, I come to sunny California and I'm going to drown in my own house."

However, Mulligan said she and her husband consider themselves lucky. Unlike most of their neighbors, the Mulligans have a two-story house. When they saw how quickly the water was rising, the couple moved some of their belongings upstairs to safety.

"While I was doing it, I thought it was kind of silly to move the furniture, but I'm glad I did," Mulligan said.

Still, the Mulligans lost many valuables, including their book and record collections and an electric organ.

McKindsey said that he, his wife and two children spent Tuesday night at a friend's house. He expected that it would be three or four days before they could sleep in their own home again.

"It'll be that long before we can get some dry bedding. . . . The beds, the couch, the carpets are all soaked," McKindsey said. "There's no place to sleep."

McKindsey said the only things his family were able to salvage were clothes and other small items that they put in plastic garbage bags or moved up to high shelves when the water began to enter their house.

"After that, all you can do is clean up," he said.

For McKindsey, this was the second time in 5 years that his home has been flooded, and he blames the city.

After flooding in 1983, the city responded to complaints from McKindsey and his neighbors by building a catchment basin on city-owned property at 30th Street and Del Sol Boulevard. It was supposed to hold water that could overflow the storm drains beneath the nearby trolley line.

"I told them at the time it (the basin) wasn't big enough," McKindsey said. "All I'm asking for is that the city find one qualified engineer."

Bob Cain, a City of San Diego senior civil engineer, said that the basin, which covers an acre and is 13 feet deep, was designed to hold water from a 100-year flood, or rain falling at a rate of 2 1/2 inches over a six-hour period.

"There's a finite amount of things you can do to protect the public," Cain said. "It (the basin) was designed for an event that only happens every 100 years, but we were caught with a very unusual storm. Physically, I don't think we can build anything bigger. We don't have any other room."

Making matters worse, Mulligan said, was the fact that a dozen large trucks, some of them holding diesel fuel, were parked at the basin when the flooding occurred. When the water began to fill the basin, it tipped the trucks over and sent them floating toward nearby homes. Mulligan said the water that washed into her house was mixed with fuel.

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