It was 6 a.m. in February 1969. A loud noise and a shaking house awakened me. Breaking glass was followed by the sound of flowing water.I loved living in Southern California. My house, on a shelf cut out of “Little Mountain” in San Bernardino had a beautiful view of the valley, when the smog wasn’t too bad.It had been an unusual winter. Christmas 1968 was one of the coldest on record, with below freezing temps and massive amounts of snow , piling up to 8 feet at Big Bear Lake.Then came the rain. It is normal for Pacific storms to line up and hit Southern California one after another—bringing snow to the mountains and most of the year’s 13’ of annual rainfall. December’s freeze was followed by a very rainy January, with rainfall amounts from 10-50 inches followed by flooding and mudslides.Then the “Pineapple Express” hit, drenching the same areas with from 5-25 inches of warm Southern Pacific rain. The mudslides started in earnest.
I was a little concerned that our narrow shelf would give way and we would slide down the mountain, as so many other homes had. It never occurred to me that the mountainside behind us would come down.The crashing boom, the broken glass, the water—I jumped out of bed onto wet carpet. My roommate ran from the other end of the house, claiming 6 inches of water in her room.I looked out my window—nothing but mud, held out by the fact that the window cranked outward, with the inner screen holding broken glass and allowing the mud to trickle in rather than pour in. Outside we discovered that the entire walkway between the house and mountainside was filled with mud all the way to the roof.A crack appeared in the wallboard of my room. We quickly gathered all my stuff and moved it to the front of the house. The fire department came and the investigators were amazed that the house was still standing.Apparently curbing on the road above the house had eroded, allowing water to cascade down the slope. The slide had come down at three different times through the night, which the fire official said had saved the house and my life.It took prison crews days to dig out the mud behind our house. There was no structural damage, so after a month with friends, we moved back in to new paint, carpet and curtains.A few takeaways:
- Danger can come unexpectedly, from a totally different place that you thought it would.
- Little things—a window that opens outward—can make a big difference.
- Timing matters—a mountainside of mud coming down all at once would have been disastrous. But three smaller slides over the night caused little damage.
- I could so easily have lost my life—more than 60 people died in the floods and mudslides that winter. But for some reason God protected me and spared my life. I don’t brush that off—it has had a significant impact on my sense of purpose and calling.
- You never know what’s next. I want to make sure I’m consistently walking with Jesus in the Spirit.
What about you? Have you had a sudden, life-threatening event? Has anything ever caused you to think about the shortness of life, the uncertainty of tomorrow?C2012 Judy Douglass