Residents of the Valencia Travel Village RV Resort are without water, power and a place to use the restroom after a surging Santa Clara River swept away part of the park early Saturday morning.
Two RV’s, a car, two of the park’s septic tanks, a transformer and a dumpster fell into the river between midnight and 3 a.m. The heavy storm rains caused the river to turn rapid — which led to the erosion of the banks on which the park’s southeast side straddles.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department called in two helicopters just before 12:30 a.m. in case anyone was trapped inside the RV’s. However, no one was.
No one was injured as a result, but residents now don’t know how long they can stay — even those living far enough away from the river’s banks are still without necessities and there is no estimate as to when power and water will be restored.
By 10 a.m., the steep bank created by the erosion was continuing to sheer of into the river. L.A. County Fire Department officials on the scene continued to extend the area in which it was not safe to access and said, if need be, more evacuations would take place.
There were was one RV, which officials on the scene said could be swept away at any moment, hanging off the edge of the cliff. It was reported that moving the vehicle would be too dangerous and its owner was forced to sign a waiver. The RV eventually fell off the cliff and into the river at 12:30 p.m.
“At this point, if it gets any worse, it may be a possibility,” said Bryden. “I think right now we’re just trying to take care of people that are closest to it and see how it comes out.”
Another resident of the park, Cathy Stephens, was in her RV during the incident and said the entire experience was frightening. Although she lives far enough away from the newly formed cliffs to feel confident her home won’t be swept away, the conditions of the park will be a challenge.
“I hope that they get the electricity back on today, that would be nice. At least that. I could deal with the water,” said Stephens. “There was helicopters here last night and they were so low, they were shaking the trailer and woke me up. The rain was just pelting, it’s been nonstop for the last two days. Nonstop rain, and it’s been really bad.”
By 11 a.m. Southern California Edison had arrived with a new transformer.
As far as the ecological impacts of the incident, particularly with the septic tanks, L.A. County Public Works spokesman Kerjon Lee said the department’s main priority, currently, is securing lives and property. Which jurisdiction the responsibility would fall onto, in regards to removing the vehicles from the river and the extent of how much it was polluted, is still being assessed.
“It’s not in the city of Santa Clarita, which is, you know, our neighboring jurisdiction and we’ve spoken to them and they’re being briefed on what the response is. Both [The L.A. County Fire Department] and [L.A. County Sheriff’s Department] are out there,” said Lee. “It’s private property. So that does make it a little bit different and basically, there’s been notice to the appropriate state agencies and then cooperation across fire and sheriffs to protect lives and property there.”
Lee stated that since the water flows into Ventura County, and eventually the ocean, it would not be in their jurisdiction to call for a beach closure. Lee also said the contents of the septic tanks would be impossible to recover but the situation may be handled in the same manner sewer spills are.
The full extent of any ecological impacts of the entire incident are unknown and it’s unclear if Ventura County officials, or residents, have been officially notified of it.
The county of Ventura has not responded to requests for comment, at the time of this publication.
With another cell moving in and rain being forecasted next week, the possible continuing erosion of the cliffs is uncertain and so is the future of the park’s residents.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.