Debris Flow in Riven Rock: A Personal Journey Through a Sea of Mud

By Frank McGinity   |   January 10, 2023
The Riven Rock property and driveway before (left) and after

I’m reluctant to report on our experiences with the January 9th flood. It was difficult because 45% of our home was damaged. We couldn’t even get into our property for a month to view the damage. Yet the final result turned out to be very successful. 

But we mourn the 23 people who died as a result of the tragic flood. My neighbor – Roy Rohter – who lived across the Hot Springs creek from our home, was killed. If we had been home and opened our front door, we would both be dead as well.

We live in Riven Rock, a neighborhood of 34 homes surrounded by a thick stone wall surrounding 87 acres. This is where Stanley McCormick lived for 40 years. He was the son of Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the mechanical reaper and one of the leaders of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, Stanley had a form of schizophrenia and was confined to Riven Rock with his two male nurses.

But half of this beautiful estate, which Stanley created, turned to a sea of mud on January 9th, 2018. Four homes were completely destroyed. Our home took a big hit. The mud entered the rear of the house and disseminated our office, entry hall, and back bedroom. There were boulders so large in the rooms, our contractor had to chisel them apart in order to remove them. I found a TV from the office and a mattress near our front gate – 500 feet away. Can you imagine the fury of that mudslide? We were fortunate that the living room, library, and even the swimming pool remained untouched. The living room, built around 1915, was built as Stanley McCormick’s personal theatre.

My two sons, Greg and Tim, came up from Los Angeles to help us salvage some of our personal belongings. But you had to be careful. I sank in two feet of mud and had to be pulled out. There was an ironic twist to salvaging what was in the garage. We had two parking spaces in the garage filled with boxes and paraphernalia. Today the garage is completely empty.

The landscape looked like a sea of mud or a moonscape. Over 100 trucks loads were needed to remove all the mud from the house, landscape, and yard. The only part of our landscape remaining was a 190-pound statue of Emperor Qin, which we purchased in Xi’an, China. Emperor Qin (circa 220 BC) was ruthless, but considered one of the strongest rulers in China’s history.

There were a few bright spots. Our Riven Rock community pulled together, and invested, to return the neighborhood to what it was before the flood. My two sons were a big help in this time of need. And even my grandson, Marty, was a help as well. He emptied his piggy bank and sent the coins to Grandpa.

Property insurance, of course, was a big part of our successful recovery. We were very fortunate.  

Frank McGinity


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