Flooding in Camarillo Shuts Down Roads and Damages 40 Residences (2023)


Flash flooding stoked by more than 2 inches of rainfall in an hour turned this city into a swamp Friday, damaging low-lying residences and businesses and leading the City Council to declare a state of emergency.

Eighteen people had to be rescued from their stalled vehicles as intersections suddenly became muddy ponds and 22 major thoroughfares, as well as hundreds of smaller streets, were temporarily shut down.

An estimated 40 homes were damaged, as were numerous businesses around the Ventura Freeway, according to city officials. No major injuries were reported, authorities said.


Preliminary estimates place private and public damage at $500,000 to $1 million, but city officials concede those figures are expected to rise.

“We’ve lived here for 10 years and never saw anything like this before,” Martha Brady said as emergency crews used a skiff to rescue her from an inundated mobile home park. “It’s going to take us 10 years to clean up this mess.”

Much of the flooding in midtown occurred about 9:30 a.m. after debris-cluttered runoff overwhelmed a storm-water channel that runs alongside Ponderosa Drive.

At the intersection of Carmen Drive, where the channel travels beneath the road, a torrent of water spilled over and into nearby City Hall and neighboring streets. Before crews could put down sandbags, rising waters surrounded City Hall and left dozens of vehicles floating like corks in the parking lot.

“We were just going about our normal workday when water started pouring in the front door,” City Manager Bill Little said.

“The flooding was really a byproduct of how intense the storm was,” he added. “It just filled up and couldn’t take anymore.”


City workers scrambled to save documents and computer equipment as several inches of water seeped into the building. Cleanup crews pushing squeegee brooms and high-powered vacuums arrived immediately to help mop up the mess, according to building inspector Mike Klein.

Nearby, torrents of water caused a 150-foot section of the channel to collapse, sending chunks of concrete, fencing and landscaping rushing down the culvert.


Cranes hoisted 15 concrete barricades into place to temporarily stem the flow, but it could take up to a week before crews can replace the tons of dirt that washed away beneath the concrete, according to county flood control supervisor Roger Boross.

At the Camarillo Mobile Home Park off Ventura Boulevard, the county Fire Department’s Swift Water Rescue Team arrived with rubber skiffs to help frightened elderly residents reach dry ground.

“We were going to walk out, but the water was too high for us to make it,” Bill Brady said after receiving a piggyback ride from rescuers. “It was kind of exciting. . . . You don’t get to do that too often.”

To help drain the park, firefighters knocked four holes in a cinder-block fence, allowing the water to pour into an adjacent field. Of the park’s 135 mobile homes, about a dozen were threatened by the rising water. Five received moderate damage.

“It’s like this all over town,” said Steve Swindle of the rescue team. “The water’s real high and people just don’t seem to realize it’s almost impossible to drive through, so we’ve been pushing a lot of cars.”


Balancing precariously on a curb while holding a diapered child, Mary Ann Sanchez stared wide-eyed as a group of people struggled to push a car from a pool of chest-high water near Barry Street and Peoples Avenue.

“I worried about the neighbors,” she said, pointing to homes farther down Barry Street. “This is incredible, really incredible.”

The normally tranquil Calleguas Creek turned into a roiling rush of rainwater, raw sewage and tangled debris after it spilled its banks and flooded the nearby Camarillo Springs Golf Course.

Throughout the city, flood waters entered homes and businesses, damaging pricey cars and rugs as well as priceless heirlooms.

The fast-moving current rushed into the Rosewood Court condominiums, flooding ground-level garages with muddy, knee-deep water.

Resident John Behl watched from his bedroom as the current ripped through the parking lot, banked off another condominium and spilled into Rosewood Avenue.

“It was a river,” he said. “And it was impressive.”

Moments later, neighbors scrambled downstairs to assess the damage. Sabrina Long’s washing machine and pingpong table floated in the water; the pockets of her pool table had filled with mud.

“You never picture it happening to you,” said Long, 29, one of many condominium residents who came home on a lunch break and took the rest of the day off to clean up. “But it would have been worse if it had come upstairs.”

Next door, car buff Cliff Hunt fared worse. Water rushed into his garage, rising nearly 4 feet and ruining the engines of his wife’s BMW and his beloved Jaguar.

“I’m glad they’re insured,” Hunt said. “But I was fond of that Jag.”

On Germain Street, residents at the end of the cul-de-sac were hit about 9:45 a.m by a wall of trash and muddy water.


Trash cans were supposed to be picked up Friday morning by local haulers, but the storm arrived first. Large cans spilled their contents into the street as a torrent of water poured onto Germain Street from the overflowing Ponderosa Drive drainage channel, resident Jan Coffman said.

“There must have been 10 to 20 cans that came down here and clogged up our drain. When the water had nowhere to go, it just kept rising,” Coffman, 42, said as she swept mud and debris out of the drain.

Connie Wenner, 42, barely saved her prized white rug after muddy waters lapped at her doorway. She threw down a handful of towels and kept the water at bay, but her home still received some front hallway damage, and the garage was flooded.

Wenner expressed “a little disappointment” with the city for its reaction to the crisis.

“I called them when I saw the water rising on our street, and they said, ‘Sorry, you’ll have to wait your turn.’ That made me a little upset, but I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.”

On Mardi Gras Court, just off Ponderosa Drive, Doug and Pam Carroll were caught flat-footed by how quickly the water rose. The couple, who have lived in the two-story home since 1970, said within 20 minutes the water rose more than 4 feet, inundating their garage and living room.

“It ruined a lot of stuff,” retired firefighter Doug Carroll said. “I had a lot of rare coins and paper money, and it hit my firearms collection.”

The family had recently remodeled their home after it received water damage when a pipe broke several weeks ago, Carroll said.

Carroll, his wife, son Steve, and Steve’s fiancee spent much of the afternoon cleaning out the mud and debris and vacuuming the water from the carpet. Holden sorted through a water-logged footlocker, pulling out his old high school letterman’s sweater and rain-soaked high school diploma from 1969.

“We’ll get through this,” he said, “it’s only water.”

Camarillo-area businesses also took the brunt of the storm.


At the Ponderosa Center shopping mall on Pickwick Drive, water spilled into shops from leaky rooftops. In some stores, the leaks were so bad that water rushed from wall vents.

“It was a lake on a blue carpet,” said Jeff Fuqua, manager of the Cycle Surgeon bike shop, where workers hustled to pull merchandise out of ankle-deep water.

The Terry Lumber Co. at the end of Barry Street was caught in a barrage of muddy, fast-moving water that also flooded a half-dozen adjacent homes in a span of 20 minutes.

“The whole store got flooded,” salesman Norm Malsbury said. “We spent about three hours getting about a half-foot of water out of the main building, and there was another 8 inches out back. The whole damn lumberyard was under 2 1/2 feet of water. There was lumber all over the place.”

Bustillo is a Times staff writer and Heie is a correspondent. Staff writers Chris Chi and Scott Hadly and correspondents Robert Gammon, Coll Metcalfe and Nick Green contributed to this article.


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