LOS ANGELES – Hundreds of residents in Forest Falls in San Bernardino County remained stranded Monday as crews worked to clear the last of four mud walls caused by flash floods over the weekend that cut the town off.
“It’s like somebody threw a huge mud ball on the town and it’s just sitting there,” said San Bernardino County firefighter Ryan Beckers. “It’s one road in, one road out.”
In Northern California, a pair of wildfires burned without restraint about 8 miles apart. One of the blazes had destroyed eight homes and prompted the precautionary evacuation of a small hospital.
The two fires, among 14 burning in the state, started within a day of each other in Lassen National Forest and had expanded into private property and scorched nearly 95 square miles as of Sunday evening, up from 39 square miles a day earlier.
Back in the south
On Sunday, a storm dumped several inches of rain over several communities in San Bernardino County, triggering mudslides and overflowing creeks that sent campers and locals running for higher ground.
In Forest Falls, mudslides as high as 10 feet cut across Valley of the Falls Drive, which connects the town to Hwy. 38.
Those who witnessed the flash flooding up close described a roar as waters surged down the mountains.
George Smith of San Diego had been hiking up Mt. San Gorgonio with a friend when they came to a wash that had been dry earlier in the day.
“We were just kind of deciding should we make a go of it, to cross or not, when there was a 10-foot high wall of water and debris and logs coming toward us,” he said. “It sounded like thunder coming down the river. Me and my friend had to scramble up a cliff to get out of the way of it.”
He and 12 other hikers huddled together and called 911. When the operator asked for a cross street they had to explain that they were in the forest.
In Mount Baldy, home to a small ski area, dozens of mud-covered volunteers pitched in to dig out homes and cars inundated with dirt and rock. The most significant damage was on Goat Hill Road, where a landslide buried some homes up to their roofs.
Gloria Flickinger found a river of rock had flowed into her back yard, burying her rear entrance nearly 2 feet in muck. Her garage basement with laundry and school supplies for her special education class was flooded in ankle-deep water. “I almost had a heart attack when I came home,” she said.
Flash flooding killed one person on Mt. Baldy when his vehicle spilled off a mountain road and into a creek.
The system moved out and into Central and Northern California on Monday, bringing with it the threat of lightning, which has been blamed for sparking dozens of destructive wildfires in recent weeks.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Saturday, saying the circumstances and magnitude of the wildfires were beyond the control of any single local government and required the combined forces of regions to combat.
The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.