Homes badly damaged, 1 person dead after SoCal storms (updated)

NBC4 screenshot

12:56 p.m.: Crews cleared roads in an area where some 2,500 had been stranded after thunderstorms caused mountain mudslides in Southern California, while authorities estimated that between 6 and 8 homes were badly damaged and likely uninhabitable.

Twenty five homes were reported having moderate to major damage in the Mount Baldy community, according to San Bernardino Fire Department. 

Traffic resumed on some San Bernardino County roads that had been blocked by several feet of mud, rocks and debris near the rural communities of Oak Glen and Forest Falls.

A group of campers who spent the night at a community center near Forest Falls headed down from the mountains after the main road reopened. An artery into Oak Glen was also open again.

Up to 8 homes near Forest Falls were "likely lost" and several others sustained minor damage from mud and water, according to Fire Capt. Jeff Britton.

All residents in the two towns were accounted for and no injuries were reported, officials said.

To the west, coroner's officials say a 48-year-old El Segundo man died in a car that was swept into a rain-swollen creek near Mount Baldy. Officials identified the victim on Monday as Joo Hwan Lee.

About 1,500 residents of Oak Glen, and another 1,000 residents of Forest Falls were unable to get out for nearly a day because of thick debris flows caused by flash floods. The stranded include 500 children and adults who had arrived at the Forest Falls campground Sunday morning.

Authorities made reverse 911 calls to urge residents to stay put while crews clear the roads with bulldozers. The muck was so thick it submerged a van in Forest Falls, while on Mount Baldy water swept a hot tub into the road.

Flash floods led to the rescue of several people. Hauducoeur said a woman in Mount Baldy was rescued from her house before it was buried in mud. Four additional homes in the Bear Creek area were damaged by the debris flow, he said.

San Bernardino County resources were stretched thin by the storm. Scores of swift-water rescue teams and fire engines had been dispatched to far-flung areas, county Fire Capt. Josh Wilkins told the Los Angeles Times.

"Every rescue unit we have, every fire engine we have in San Bernardino County" had been sent out, Wilkins said. "We are literally approaching the maximum right now in terms of our call volume."

In the Mount Baldy area, creeks swelled into rivers, submerging cars, Wilkins said. Authorities issued an order telling residents to shelter in place. One group rescued by emergency crews had been trapped in a home that was threatened by flooding and moving debris.

In the Angeles National Forest, a group of 4 or 5 people and a dog were airlifted to safety.

A U.S. Forest Service spokesman told NBC4 some campers had seconds to evacuate before a torrent of water washed their tents and belongings.

"It sounded like a freight train coming through," Robert Ethridge said.

Monsoonal moisture brought brief but fierce storms to mountain, desert and inland areas. In and around Palm Springs, knee-deep water flooded city streets and stranded vehicles. In the city of Redlands, the storm downed a tree and knocked out power to a few neighborhoods.

The downpour dumped as much as 3 1/2 inches of rain on Forest Falls, and nearly 5 inches on Mount Baldy, the National Weather Service said.

Authorities said crews were assessing the extent of the damage.

Harsh flash flooding hit the same area 15 years ago, when landslides sent boulders and trees plowing through 15 homes and creekside cabins in Forest Falls in the summer of 1999. One person was killed and five others injured.

— AP reporters Brian Melley and Raquel Maria Dillon

8:12 a.m.: 1 dead, thousands stranded after SoCal storms

Thousands of people were stranded Monday morning following storms that caused flash flooding and mudslides in the mountain areas of Southern California, and authorities said it could be several hours before roads were cleared to allow people to get in and out.

San Bernardino County Fire spokesman Ryan Beckers told KPCC that crews are working to cut through debris fields that have covered roads and are blocking access in and out of certain areas.

Near Mt. Baldy, a 48-year-old L.A. County man was found dead in a car that was swept into a flooded creek, the Associated Press reports.

Coroner's Lt. Fred Corral says Joo Hwan Lee of El Segundo died Sunday when his car overturned during flash floods, according to AP.

In Forest Falls along Highway 38 on the way up to Big Bear, people were mostly cut off from getting in or out of town, Beckers said. Valley of the Falls Drive is the only road in, and it's blocked with a five foot wall of mud after thunderstorms caused mudslides. The town's population is 3,000, Beckers said.

San Bernardino County firefighters say cars were washed away, debris overran roads, and some people were rescued in Forest Falls and Mt. Baldy.  

The stranded include some 500 children and adults at a campground. Beckers said the children were arriving at Forest Home Christian conference center for a week of activities, and they managed to shelter in place, Beckers said.

Yesterday's storm dropped more than four inches of rain on the San Gabriel Mountains in just one hour, Beckers said.

Beckers says all residents are accounted for and no injuries are reported.

For residents seeking assistance with shelter, San Bernardino Fire Department said the Red Cross has a command post located at 40,000 Valley of the Falls Drive, Forest Falls, CA, 92339. 

— KPCC staff

This story has been updated.