Mudslides hit Los Angeles mountain area as thousands told to evacuate | California

Thousands of residents of a mountain area east of Los Angeles were under evacuation orders and shelter-in-place orders after heavy rains unleashed mudslides, sending boulders and other debris across roads.

Firefighters went street by street in the community of Forest Falls on Monday night to make sure no residents were trapped. Eric Sherwin, spokesperson for the San Bernardino county fire department, said crews had not found anyone who needed to be rescued and no one was reported missing. Crews would canvass the neighborhoods again and begin cleanup efforts after sunrise, he said.

“We’re not gonna know the extent of things until we get to first light,” Sherwin said before dawn on Tuesday.

Many structures in the area had varying levels of damage, Sherwin said, including a commercial building where the mud was so high it collapsed the roof.

The rains were the remnants of a tropical storm that brought high winds and some badly needed rainfall to drought-stricken southern California last week, helping firefighters largely corral a wildfire that had been burning out of control about 20 miles (32 km) south of the mudslides.

The mud flows and flash flooding occurred in parts of the San Bernardino Mountains where there are burn scars from the wildfires in 2020. Those burn scars have little vegetation to hold the soil, making them susceptible to land and mudslides.

“All of that dirt turns to mud and starts slipping down the mountain,” Sherwin said.

Concerns about additional mud and debris flows on Monday night prompted authorities to put 2,000 homes in the San Bernardino Mountain communities of Oak Glen and Forest Falls under evacuation orders after nearly 2in (5cm) of rain fell on Yucaipa Ridge.

For some homes in Forest Falls, it was too late to evacuate and residents were told to shelter in place through the night because it was safer than venturing out.

“The roads are compromised or they’re covered in debris,” Sherwin said, adding that crews planned to work all night using heavy equipment to clear roads.

The mudslides came after a week of extreme weather patterns in California. The state endured a record-long heatwave, with temperatures in many regions rocketing past 100F (38C).

Amid the extreme heat, several wildfires broke out, including the Fairview fire in southern California and the Mosquite fire burning east of Sacramento.

Then, a tropical storm hits parts of the south of the state.

The remnants of Hurricane Kay aided crews battling the Fairview fire, which was at 44 sq miles (114sq km) and 56% contained by late Monday.

The Mosquito fire has grown to 76 sq miles, with 16% containment, according to the California department of forestry and fire protection (CalFire).

More than 5,800 structures in Placer and El Dorado counties remained under threat, and some 11,000 residents were under evacuation orders.

Smoky skies from wildfires in many areas of the west caused air quality to deteriorate on Monday, with dangerous levels of particulate pollution detected by government and private monitors in portions of eastern Oregon and Washington, northern California, central Idaho and western Montana. In some areas, people were told to avoid all outdoor activity until the pollution cleared.

In Washington, fire officials scrambled to secure resources for a blaze sparked on Saturday in the remote Stevens Pass area that sent hikers fleeing and forced evacuations of mountain communities. As of Monday, the Bolt Creek fire was 2% contained and had scorched nearly 12 sq miles of forestland about 65 miles north-east of Seattle. A larger incident management team and additional fire crews were slated to arrive on Tuesday, officials said.

In Oregon, utility companies said on Monday they restored power to tens of thousands of customers after shutting down service over the weekend to try to prevent wildfires during high winds, low humidity and hot temperatures.

South of Portland, evacuation levels were reduced near the 135-sq-mile Cedar Creek fire, which has burned for over a month across Lane and Deschutes counties. Firefighters were protecting remote homes in Oakridge, Westfir and surrounding mountain communities. Sheriff’s officials warned people to remain ready to leave at a moment’s notice should conditions change.

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