their two teenage children, leaving a path of destruction in her
Back then, the window in Scott's room looked straight up Pine Cone
Road, a steep, winding, pine tree-lined street that resembles a ski
run. Scott's 18-year-old sister, Kim, called to her mother, who
joined her in Scott's room as they looked up the street.
What they saw was hard to make out because it was pitch black and
pouring rain. It turned out to be a wall of water, mud, rocks and
boulders rushing down the street, unleashed when Upper Shields Debris
Basin overflowed. Weeks of heavy rain -- including more than 5 inches
in a 48-hour period -- proved too much for the basin, situated at the
foot of Shields Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains. A 1975 fire in
the foothills above La Crescenta and La Canada Flintridge contributed
to the erosion spilling from the basin.
"That's when the rumbling started," Scott Genofile said.
The fast-moving debris flow, which included uprooted trees, power
transformers and more than a dozen automobiles, was heading straight
for the Genofile home at the foot of Pine Cone.
"All of a sudden, we see this big, black thing rolling down on
us," Jackie Genofile, 79, recalled this week. "I yelled, 'Run, we're
The family made a beeline for the master bedroom on the far side
of the single-story house, and prepared for the worst.
"I remember shutting the door and stepping back," Scott said.
"Then the door just burst open and mud came pouring in like water."
The Genofiles took refuge on Bob and Jackie's mattress as the room
began filling with mud and other debris.
Robert Genofile kicked out the sliding-glass doors to give the
muck a place to exit. When the mattress started to drift toward the
opening, Scott and Kim jumped off to redirect it, but were instantly
pinned between the bed's brass railing and the wall.
"Once that stuff hardened, it was like we were in cement," Scott
said. "We couldn't move."
The bed began to rise. The house was being buried to the eaves.
Boulders landed with a thud on the roof. Robert and Jackie reached
for their children.
"I said, 'Oh, my God, what a hell of a way for us to die,'" Jackie