ALPINE -- A massive mudslide that would have destroyed one home and damaged several others was diverted in the nick of time over the weekend.
"We got lucky," Alpine city manager Rich Nelson said.
City officials, working with federal agencies, had been in a race against the clock this spring to complete a $400,000 project to channel potential mudslides away from homes. Work had just been completed when the mudslide hit.
"We had just finished putting a debris basin in at Box Elder Canyon subdivision," he said. "They had just finished grouting the rocks into the debris basin, and Friday night about four in the morning people called dispatch and said it was coming down."
The slide was so big that it filled the new basin, which barely contained it. The basin captured the flow and redirected it through a planned channel, where a new cement wall installed by the city around a hillside home saved the home from being destroyed.
"We had built a wall around this one house," he said. "We saved that house without question, and it would have affected some of the houses down below too."
The mudslide hit the cement wall, as designed, which diverted the it into a prepared channel. The mudslide eventually ran out of steam in the city's huge Lambert Park, which is a wildland preserve, "which is what it was supposed to do," he said.
Because more rain was in the weekend forecast, the city immediately took heavy equipment to two debris basins to clear them of the mud brought in by the slide so there would be room to capture any new slide.
The danger is far from over, and hillside residents were just lucky the slide wasn't bigger because it would have overtopped the basin and hit homes, Nelson said.
"We have our fingers crossed because you figure that after a wildfire you will have a chance of mudslides for the next five years," he said. "We hope we don't have a larger one."
A separate slide also inundated the Dry Creek Trailhead parking lot. The slide actually came down the trail, and city officials said it was only luck that no one had been leaving on an early morning hike when the slide hit.
"The trailhead got covered, but it was away from homes," Nelson said.
The Quail Fire, which started July 3, 2012, in Lambert Park in Alpine, destroyed 2,200 acres of the mountainside and came within feet of burning dozens of homes, which were saved only by the efforts of fire crews.