Southern California mudslides damage homes

West

The feet of Perla Halbert are covered in mud after she unsuccessfully tried to reach her property in the aftermath of a mudslide Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Oak Glen, Calif. Cleanup efforts and damage assessments are underway east of Los Angeles after heavy rains unleashed mudslides in a mountain area scorched by a wildfire two years ago. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

OAK GLEN, Calif. (AP) — Rescuers searched for a person missing in a mudslide Tuesday as big yellow tractors plowed through dark, thick sludge and pushed boulders off roads after flash floods swept dirt, rocks and trees down fire-scarred slopes, past washed-away cars and buried buildings in small mountain communities in Southern California.

With thunderstorms in the forecast and more mudslides possible into Wednesday, evacuation orders remained in place in parts of the San Bernardino Mountains while a wildfire raging 500 miles to the north forced residents to abandon their homes.

The Mosquito Fire burning 110 miles northeast of San Francisco erupted in the afternoon just hours after officials had reported making “great strides” in the battle.

“We have all hands on deck,” fire spokesperson Chris Valenzuela said as the fire burned near Todd Valley and Foresthill. “It’s burning very erratic and intensely.”

The blaze was one of three large fires in the state.

East of Los Angeles, crews searched street by street for people who might be trapped by mudflows that washed rocks, trees and other debris with astonishing force the day before into Forest Falls, Oak Glen and Yucaipa and left a muddy mess and untold destruction.

Homes and other buildings were damaged, including a commercial building buried so high its roof collapsed, said Eric Sherwin, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

“We have boulders that moved through that weigh multiple tons,” Sherwin said. “It could take days just to find all the cars that are missing because they are completely covered by mud.”

video showed a slow-moving black river of sludge rolling past the sign for the Oak Glen Steakhouse and Saloon followed seconds later by a surging wave of deeper mud carrying logs. The mud appeared to be head-high in places the next day.

Sherwin said crews were searching for one missing person.

Residents who tried to return home found it tough going in the sticky mess.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Perla Halbert, whose feet were caked in mud after trying to walk to her home. “If you try and take two steps, you get submerged. You just get stuck.”

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