East end houses “just a big mess”

The following article first appeared in the Sunday, February 12, 1978 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on Page A-2. It is reprinted here with their permission.

East end houses “just a big mess”
by
Fred Volz


The East End of the valley took on a familiar look Friday morning. 1969 all over again.

As usual, the disaster area stretched along the infamous Thacher Creek barranca from “the dip” on Grand Avenue (500 yards west of McAndrew Road) all the way to Reeves Road. Thursday night a torrent of water poured out of Horn Canyon and gaining speed on a downhill slope ripped out the walls of the barranca and poured into houses and acreage along the way.

THE R. HARGETT FAMILY at 4370 Grand Avenue had moved into their new house two days ago. Thursday night they moved out. That was just before the barranca broke on its east side and re-routed itself in a torrent of water 5 feet wide on either side of the house leaving it sitting on an island. Hargett, a plumber from Redondo Beach, has been building the home himself for the past year and one-half. The fast-moving water undermined the foundation and part of the house caved in. It appeared that no water reached its inside.

“I’m going to jack her up, fix the framing, and move back in next week,” Hargett said Friday morning while watching the flood roar by. “Soon as the water’s down and I can get a bulldozer in here. This is not going to discourage me.”

TO THE FRED WACHTER family at 4184 Grand Avenue on the other side of the barranca the mess WAS discouraging. A branch of the barranca about 6 feet deep and 40 feet wide had ripped right straight through his home, demolishing his carport, carrying part of the deck away, and running into the house. The bedrooms were a sea of mud and the living room rug soaked. Thousands of dollars of landscaping were on their way to the ocean.

Next door at this writer’s house was a similar scene. This time the flood didn’t reach the inside of the house, coming to within one inch of the front door. The house is about 5 feet off the ground at that point.

Next door at the Russell residence a fire truck full of sandbags stood in what was once the front yard. It was buried up to its door handles. When the barranca broke loose, a wall of water surged around the house and fire personnel standing by ran for high ground. The Russell’s car was buried and their acre of landscaping buried under boulders and mud.

On down the barranca were houses belonging to two other families — the Ditchfields and the Ghormleys. Ditchfields fared well. Although their front yard and driveway are now a 12 foot wide, 10 foot deep channel, no water poured into their home.

Ghormleys have a sadder story to tell. Wall-to-wall mud fills the house and their garage is completely totaled. Thanks to a neighbor, Del Garst, however, much was saved. Garst went into the home before flood waters swept through, piled furniture high and blocked doorways.

Gary Hachadourian took builder Chuck Thomas with him Friday morning to check his East End acreage near Thacher Creek where he planned to start construction next week. No lot existed.







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