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Runaway Boulder Crashes Into 2 Homes

Slide: Rain-loosened rock also damages a market in plunge down Silverado Canyon hillside. No injuries reported.


A boulder the size of a sport-utility vehicle roared down a rain-soaked hill in Silverado Canyon on Saturday before shattering and sending large chunks of rock on a path of destruction through two homes and a market.

Some residents ran for their lives as the rocks crashed through their walls, but no one was injured. Several buildings sustained heavy damage and an oak tree was toppled.

"I thought it was an earthquake," said Millie Valentine, who was sitting just a few feet from where a rock the size of a large office desk crashed through her closet, into the living room, through the floor and into the garage. "It sounded like a big explosion. I was waiting for the whole house to fold."

While her husband, Richard, was at work, Valentine was at home in her favorite chair watching the news, worried about all the rain that's been pelting the canyon and wondering about mudslides.

"I don't remember things flying at me, but half of my computer table is on my bed," said Valentine, who left her house blanketed with dust and dirt. Her clothes, although covered with debris, were still hanging in a closet without a floor. Her shoes were scattered throughout the garage.

"At least I had a pair of clean jeans in the bathroom," she said.

The boulder sent the couple's computer monitor flying and caused the base of the fireplace to separate about a foot from the wall. When the rock finally came to rest in the garage, it had crushed Richard Valentine's motorcycle and mowed down some cabinets.

Officials believe erosion from a night of rain caused the boulder to come loose. It left some worried residents wondering whether more rain will cause more rockslides.

"I hope that's the last one to fall," said Jennifer Oto, owner of the Shadybrook County Store, where several large rocks were lodged in the back of the building. Daughter, Caitlin, 12, was sleeping in her room above the store when she heard a rumble and then the crash of broken glass.

The Oto family and the Valentines have been evacuated from their homes and will be put up in Lake Forest by the Red Cross for the next few days. Their homes, as well as the two other damaged buildings, have been red-tagged until they are deemed safe, according to the Red Cross. Fire officials said they did not have immediate damage estimates.

This isn't the first time a boulder has tumbled down this hill. In 1989, a 4-ton boulder came loose and spun down the hill in a path directly between the Valentines' house and the store.

Since then, the Valentines have carefully monitored the news during rainstorms.

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