Freak California storm kills one person, strands thousands

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LOS ANGELES, Calif — As clean up efforts were underway on Monday, emergency personnel were surveying the damage left after thunderstorms in and around San Bernardino County wreaked havoc in the region the previous day.

The storm hit Southern California on Sunday afternoon, bringing torrential rains to the mountain and desert areas, while also triggering mudslides that flash floods that left one person dead and thousands stranded.

An man was killed on Mount Baldy when his vehicle was swept off of Bear Road and into a creek, according to San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesman Chris Prater.

He was identified by Lt. Fred Corral with the Los Angeles County coroner’s office as 48-year-old Joo Hwan Lee of El Segundo.

One person also had to be rescued from rising floodwaters that effectively shut down Forest Falls, a small mountain community located in the San Bernardino National Forest about 15 miles east of Redlands. The unidentified person was not injured and was taken to a nearby fire station, the Fire Department tweeted.

“Most roads are impassible due to mudflows” in Forest Falls, county fire Capt. Kyle Hauducoeur told CNN.

Forest Falls residents were instructed by authorities to “shelter in place” until the waters receded.

Significant flooding was also reported along Oak Glen Road in Oak Glen, and some 1,500 residents were temporarily unable to leave the area, authorities said.

The road was briefly shut down before being reopened Sunday evening, Cal Fire spokeswoman Elizabeth Brown said.

Hundreds of campers had also been reported to have been trapped at a church camp after heavy rains prompted road closures on Highway 38 and Valley of the Falls Drive.

However, a news release from Forest Home Christian Camps and Conference Centers, which operates five camp centers in the area, stated in a news release late Sunday that those reports were erroneous.

“All guests at Forest Home are safe and secure. The high school and junior high campers are enjoying the scheduled activities without interruption,” officials said in the release.

The extent of the damage to the area was not immediately known, but crews would be assessing Forest Falls sometime after dawn, county fire spokesman Ryan Beckers told KTLA on Monday. He added that they would also be trying to determine whether anyone was missing.

“Even though the rains have stopped, we still haven’t had enough daylight to go in and search the entire town,” Beckers said. “So today’s mission will be to see if anybody is still yet unaccounted for… and then go into the residential streets and assess how many homes exactly are damaged, to what extent and start the cleanup.”

So far, no injuries had been reported in Forest Falls or in Highland, a mountain community that was also hit by severe flooding from the storm.

Several residents were displaced in Highland, and the city was in the process of surveying the area for cleanup of dirt and debris, according to a news release from the San Bernardino Unit of Cal Fire.

Most of the water subsided after the storms, the release added.

Some roads remained closed or partially shut down in the county on Monday morning as a result of flooding from the weekend’s monsoons, according to Caltrans.

The closures included: State Route 62 from Mary Ann Lane to Vidal Junction; Route 95 from Blythe to Vidal Junction; and State Route 177 from post mile 0 to 27. Additionally, one eastbound lane was closed on Interstate 10 at Eagle Mountain.

The closures would be in effect for an unknown duration of time, Caltrans stated in a news release.

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