Children at church camp among thousands stranded in California mudslides

Posted at 5:51 AM, Aug 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-04 05:51:33-04

FOREST FALLS, Calif. (CNN) — Torrential rain and rapid mudslides shut down a Southern California town Sunday, stranding thousands of people and trapping 500 children and adults at a church camp.

“Most roads are impassible due to mudflows” in Forest Falls, said San Bernardino Fire Capt. Kyle Hauducoeur. Even a local fire station had to be evacuated.

Authorities have made contact with the Forest Home camp, where the 500 visitors were staying, and said everyone is safe — but the camp was still trapped behind mudflow late Sunday night.

Crews used bulldozers and other heavy equipment to try to reach the campers, Hauducoeur said.

“There is no other way out of there. It’s basically like a dead-end slot canyon,” he said.

So far, there have been no reports of injuries or missing residents in Forest Falls, population 2,000. Hauducoeur said the damage to homes due to flooding has not been severe.

california mudslide august 2014But elsewhere in San Bernardino County, one person was found dead inside a vehicle that was swept off the road and into a creek by floodwater, county fire department spokesman Chris Prater said.

And 1,500 people in the nearby community of Glen Oak were stranded due to flash flooding, said Dennis Mathisen of Cal Fire.

The deluge combined with the terrain made conditions especially daunting.

“Try to imagine the bands of rains from a hurricane — that’s what we’re getting,” Hauducoeur said. “The difference (is) it’s hitting mountains. What was a dry river bed could become a river 6 feet deep, 20 feet wide.”

He said some roads are now covered with 6 to 8 feet of rock, and “we have a lot of mud to deal with.”

Officials are asking residents to stay inside their homes and to call 911 if they need to be rescued. Hauducoeur said two swift-water rescue crews are in the area.

Hauducoeur said firefighters expect to be working the Forest Falls scene for the next three to four days. But with ongoing wildfires in northern California, resources will already be stretched thin.