Road crews using bulldozers cleared away rocks and mudslides Monday to reach 2,500 residents of a San Bernardino mountain resort area and around 500 kids and adults stranded at a church camp after torrential rain storms.
The body of a 48-year-old man from El Segundo, Calif., was found in a vehicle that had apparently been washed off the roadway and overturned near the Bear Creek community. He was identified as Joo Hwan Lee.
Many residents in the popular Southern California mountain resort area had been forced to "shelter in place," particularly in Oak Glen, with a population of 1,500, and Forest Falls, with 1,000.
The muck from the mud and rain was so thick it submerged a van in Forest Falls, while on Mount Baldy water swept a hot tub into the road. As many as 8 homes were "likely lost," according to San Bernardino Fire Capt. Jeff Britton.
After bulldozers punched through mounds of mud, rocks and debris blocking several county roads, traffic resumed to Oak Glen and Forest Falls.
As many as 500 children and adults were stranded for more than a day at the Forest Home Christian Camp and Retreat near Forest Falls. A separate group of campers who spent the night at a community center near the town made their way down the mountain Monday.
Residents in the hardest-hit areas had been urged by reverse 911 calls to stay put as the rains and water inundated the area.
A U.S. Forest Service spokesman told KNBC-TV some campers had only seconds to evacuate before a torrent of water washed their tents and belongings. "It sounded like a freight train coming through," Robert Ethridge said.
One man in Forest Falls was forced to escape a debris flow by climbing a tree, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Kyle Hauducoeur, a county fire spokesman, said a woman in Mount Baldy was rescued from her house before it was buried in mud.
San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Josh Wilkins told the Times that calls for help had stretched his resources to the breaking point.
"Every rescue unit we have, every fire engine we have in San Bernardino County" had been dispatched, Wilkins told the Times. "We are literally approaching the maximum right now in terms of our call volume."
Flash floods continued in the Palm Springs, California area on Sunday. Severe thunderstorms dumped large amounts of rain, causing some drivers to abandon their cars. VPC
In the Angeles National Forest, a group of four or five people and a dog were airlifted to safety.
Flash floods and monsoonal weather also dumped driving rain in Palm Springs and across the Coachella Valley, causing flooding and several related traffic incidents. In the city of Redlands, the storm downed a tree and knocked out power to a few neighborhoods.
Thunderstorms that swept across Southern California on Sunday led to the death of one person and caused mountain mudslides that stranded more than 2,000 people, authorities said. (Aug. 3) AP
"The gods are angry," joked Palm Springs resident Janus Blythe. "I wish it was a steady rain instead of just coming down all at once, because then it floods."
Rains throughout Riverside County also caused havoc along roadways outside the valley.
The slow lane and right shoulder of Interstate 10 about 40 miles east of Indio were washed away in heavy runoff from thunderstorms and debris was reported across all lanes Sunday, according to a dispatcher with the California Highway Patrol.
The CHP also sent crews to a report of "hundreds" of cars stuck between flooded washes on State Route 62 west of the Vidal junction due to a broken water dike.
"The report was about 100 cars but we were unable to confirm (that it was) that many cars. Everyone is safely out," the CHP dispatcher said.
Contributing: The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun; Associated Press