Still licking its wounds, the Independence area covered with as much as 20 feet of mud, the destruction of some 20 homes and questions about the future of Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery.
The major flood and mudslide that hurled down from the Sierra mountains Saturday afternoon blocked the Highway and destroyed homes in its path. Tonight, authorities planned a community meeting at the Legion Hall at 5pm.
The Independence Civic Club has set up a fund at El Dorado Savings Bank in Lone Pine to help people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged in the Oak Creek Flood. Those who wish to donate to the fund can send a check to the Independence Civic Club, Attn: Flood Relief Fund, P.O. Box 482, Independence, CA 93526.
The loss of the trout race ways and valuable brood stock hit Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery. We have calls in to authorities to see what will happen next. Meanwhile, the highway remained a problem with Oak Creek waters still out of the stream bed and rushing toward the highway.
Caltrans Director Tom Hallenbeck was on scene yesterday and talked to us about the difficult clean-up:
Hallenbeck said that crews were trying to get the water to go back into the Oak Creek stream channel and away from the highway.
As for the weather system that created this disaster, our Forecast Specialist Dennis Mattinson said it was “an absolutely intense, high altitude cell that released torrential rain.” Mattinson checked a sophisticated, remote weather station at Oak Creek Campground. The last rain level reading before the system was destroyed by the mud and water measured 7.6 inches of rain. An astonishing amount of rain since the entire year barely measures 5 inches. Mattinson said all signs of anything were gone from the campground, including trees. He estimated that the torrent of water and mud in the some 50 foot ravine mounted a 20 to 25 foot wall of mud. Mattinson said the weather cell let loose over the Sierra, not the Valley floor – so it was concentrated on the higher elevations.
Late yesterday more floods closed Highways 136 and 190 into Death Valley. The flood hit 10 miles east of Olancha and stranded several vehicles. The Sheriff’s Department, CHP and Caltrans went to work to rescue them.
At last report, travel through the mudslide area remained possible and relatively fast.
A note from the Forest Service – they have resumed issuance of wilderness permits to the Mt. Whitney area, Cottonwood pass area and Onion Valley. Baxter Pass is closed.