Tuesday, July 22, 2008
By Guy McCarthy
CATHEDRAL CITY - Residents of a mobile home park tried to clean up Monday from a flash flood that roared out of Eagle Canyon, left at least one residence unsafe to live in, and filled many other homes with mud, water and stench.
Some worked on their knees with wet-vacs, others worked with shovels. Many of them angrily blamed the city for the mess, and for years of talking about flood control but doing nothing about it.
The mayor of this desert community 110 miles east of Los Angeles said residents of Tramview Mobile Home Park have every right to be upset, but she dismissed notions that Cathedral City is solely responsible for the mud that flowed into their homes.
Mayor Kathleen DeRosa underlined Monday afternoon at a press conference that the city's local emergency declaration paves the way for owners of damaged property to seek reimbursement from FEMA.
"That's what's frustrating about being a resident and dealing with city officials," said Marc Kamm, 60, who emptied trash cans full of ruined carpets into a dumpster before he went to City Hall to hear what DeRosa had to say.
"They've known about the flood problem since 1986," Kamm said. "They knew about it, they talked about it, they passed the blame back and forth. Why didn't they do anything about it?"
Cost is one reason, DeRosa said.
Putting a dam in Eagle Canyon - a massive mountain watershed that lies under several local jurisdictions - would cost $28 million at current flood control estimates, said city communications director Allen Howe.
Other residents who did not come to City Hall said the city is accountable in more ways than one. A few years ago Cathedral City oversaw the demolition of a trailer park across the street and uphill from Tramview, and at the same time eliminated adequate flood control measures.
"It's their mud," said Paul Jaurequi, a manager at Tramview. "They should be cleaning it up."
Kami Sawatsky, 57, agreed.
"It's just a mess out here," she said, showing a visitor mud on the floors of a home that was being renovated. "People are angry, too mad to talk."
One resident who did not want to be identified got into a shouting match with a city employee driving a loader, and ended the exchange sarcastically with "You have a nice day, too!"
Jaurequi's office has windows facing the slopes, and he has a decent view of the mouth of Eagle Canyon.
"I looked out and saw a big river coming off the mountain," Jaurequi said of the Sunday flash flood. "Six-thirty in the morning and I saw it just run right through this park. We couldn't get out because the water was up to our knees.
"This happened in 1989 and the city knew about the problem," Jaurequi said. "And here we are again. The same thing happened."
DeRosa called the sudden storms on Sunday "an act of God" and said the debris that came down to Tramview came from Eagle Canyon. When told that some residents said dirt on the former trailer park site was what hit their community, DeRosa said Cathedral City had maintained the site to code since the demolition.
"I can't tell where that dirt came from," DeRosa said. "Dirt is dirt . . . At the end of the day it doesn't make any difference whose dirt it is. They're upset and they have every right to be."
More photos at
tramview - slideshow
tramview - set