By Douglas W. Motley
A mudslide apparently triggered by heavy rain on Sunday, Aug. 31 along Highway 38 near Big Bear left some 30 motorists stranded and stuck in their vehicles.
The National Weather Service, out of San Diego, issued an urgent flash flood warning around noon on Sunday, advising motorists and residents that many parts of San Bernardino County, including Big Bear and some High Desert areas, should prepare for a downpour in the next two hours that could result in as much as two to seven inches of rain per hour. The warning was expected to last until Sunday evening.
According to media sources, it was not immediately clear exactly how many people were waiting to be rescued after mud and debris swept over a portion of the highway (SR38) near Hill Ranch Road at about noon. California Highway Patrol dispatchers said there were eyewitness reports of some 30 vehicles.
As of 1 p.m., crews flying San Bernardino County Sheriff’s helicopters were working to get them out of there. Meanwhile, bulldozers were summoned to clear mud and debris from the highway. The portion of the highway affected by the mudslide was shut down in both directions. A second closure was reported between Jenk’s Lake Road and Valley of the Falls Drive, near Angeles Oaks. Even more flooding was reported further south, between Paradise Way and San Anselmo Drive. Motorists were advised to wait until the storm passed or to use an alternate route.
In addition to flooding in the San Bernardino Mountains, the High Desert communities of Apple Valley and Lucerne Valley suffered from flooding as well. Fortunately, the San Bernardino Mountains communities of Running Springs, Lake Arrowhead and Crestline experienced only light rain and were spared the ravages of flooding.
On Saturday, July 30, a similar downpour in Las Vegas resulted in flooding along the famous Las Vegas Boulevard and water was reported pouring from the ceiling of the Venetian Hotel Casino. Flash flooding was also reported as a result of thunderstorms in the Inyo County communities of Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine, as well as Death Valley.
In the event that flash flooding should occur in your neighborhood, the American Red Cross recommends moving to higher ground and to listen to local radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates. Also, keep emergency first aid supplies and sandbags on hand. If you are driving and encounter a flooded street, turn around and don’t drown and, if you are caught on a flooded road and water is rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground, because most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
And, if you don’t believe it can happen here, just keep in mind that on Christmas Day in 2003, a flash flood in Waterman Canyon led to the deaths of 14 men, women and children who were swept away by mud, debris and large boulders while celebrating Christmas at St. Sophia Camp on Old Waterman Canyon Road.
Pay attention and stay safe out there.