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Southern California Flooding: Mudslides, Flash Flooding California Damage Homes, Leave At Least 1 Dead

By Nick Wiltgen
Published: August 5, 2014

At least one person was killed and thousands were stranded as unusually rich monsoon moisture fueled powerful thunderstorms that slammed the Southwest with torrential rainfall Sunday, leading to flash flooding in several California and Arizona counties. The storms also brought damaging winds in the Phoenix area.

A body was found Sunday in a car that was swept into the rain-swollen water course in Mount Baldy and overturned, San Bernardino County Fire spokesman Chris Prater said. Authorities were working to remove the body from the car Sunday night, which was swept away from an area near Mt. Baldy Road and Bear Canyon Drive, NBC Los Angeles reported.

In California, More than 30 homes were damaged - with at least a dozen of them so severely damaged that they're uninhabitable, authorities said Monday.

(FORECAST: More Flash Flooding Ahead for the West)

Further east, flash floods Sunday brought thick debris flows that cut off access to two towns. About 1,500 residents of Oak Glen, and another 1,000 residents of Forest Falls in the San Bernardino Mountains were unable to get out because the roads were covered with mud, rock and debris, authorities said.

California

A thunderstorm unleashed 3.89 inches of rain in a short period of time on Mount Baldy in the Angeles National Forest Sunday afternoon, unleashing dangerous flash floods and debris flows that destroyed several homes.

A 48-year-old man died in a car that was swept into a rain-swollen creek near Mount Baldy. Coroner's officials identified him on Monday as Joo Hwan Lee of El Segundo.

In the town of Mount Baldy, 25 houses were damaged rendering six of them uninhabitable, fire Chief Bill Stead said.

Stead said the most significant damage in this tiny resort town popular with skiers and hikers is in the Goat Hill area where a rockslide buried some homes up to their roofs.

Between six and eight homes have similar severe damages from mud and water about 50 miles away near Forest Falls.

Mountain roads were reopened after mudslides shut them down and stranded some 2,500 people, including 500 campers who spent the night at a community center near Forest Falls but had departed, San Bernardino County fire officials said.

An artery into the town of Oak Glen, where about 1,500 people were stranded, was also open again, county fire Capt. Jeff Britton said.

Everyone in the two towns was accounted for and no injuries were reported, officials said.

On Sunday, five people and a dog had to be rescued by air as water rushed through a canyon near Mount Baldy, NBC Los Angeles reports.

Authorities made reverse 911 calls to urge residents to stay put while crews clear the roads with bulldozers. The muck was so thick it submerged a van in Forest Falls, while on Mount Baldy water swept a hot tub into the road. It wasn't immediately clear early Sunday how much progress had been made clearing roadways.

Flash floods led to the rescue of several people. Hauducoeur said a woman in Mt. Baldy was rescued from her house before it was buried in mud. 

(MORE: Earthquake Kills Thousands in China)

Arizona

Western Arizona was also hard-hit, particularly in the Lake Havasu City area. The National Weather Service said trees were snapped by powerful thunderstorm winds there. Dry washes in the area turned into torrents of floodwater, as shown in several videos posted to social media.

Strong storms also hit the Phoenix area. In Tempe, the Price Freeway (State Route 101) was closed for a time when a cable fell onto the road, potentially due to the storm.

(MORE: Why Is an Ohio Town Banned From Drinking Its Own Water?)

Large trees were knocked over in Tempe. A severe thunderstorm warning had been in effect for the storm, which struck around 6 p.m. local time. Hundreds of customers lost power in the immediate area, according to the Salt River Project, a state-owned electric utility.

Powerful storms also struck Wickenburg, northwest of Phoenix, causing roof damage in the downtown area. National Weather Service meteorologist Jessica Nolte said the damage most likely was caused by a downburst of rain-cooled air associated with a thunderstorm.

The National Weather Service relayed reports of flash flooding around Kingman, in northwest Arizona, late Sunday evening.

Below are more photos and short videos of the Southwest storms and their aftermath from social media.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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