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Flash Floods Swamp California

July 12, 1999

FOREST FALLS, Calif. (AP) _ Dogs were used today to search for bodies in the wreckage left by a flash flood that sent a wall of water, mud and boulders through a mountain hamlet. At least one person was killed.

Fourteen homes were destroyed and debris choked the main thoroughfare of the town in the San Bernardino Mountains.

``My house is gone,″ resident Molly Lamm said.

The Sunday afternoon flood, along usually dry Mill Creek at the bottom of a steep canyon, followed a storm that dumped 1 1/2 inches of rain in a half-hour.

Although initial reports were that two people died, deputy coroner John Quinn said the body of one woman was recovered early today and at least one person was missing. Five people were hurt, three seriously.

Dogs were being used to search for any other bodies in the waist-deep muck and crews used bulldozers to clear a path through the community.

One elderly woman was rescued after spending three hours up to her neck in mud.

``The river just came right into her house and parked on her legs,″ rescuer Tristan McDow said. ``It looked just like a movie out of Hollywood.″

``We heard the roar and we went out. It was a good 15 feet high,″ said Pat Thompson, a resident of the community of 3,500 people, 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

About 100 stranded residents, campers and picnickers had to take refuge overnight at the Big Falls Lodge Steak House.

Resident Randy Thompson was stunned at the speed of the damage.

``We were staying in the house and the house started trembling,″ Thompson said. ``I mean, in a matter of seconds.″

The National Weather Service said a chance of rain continued through today throughout southern California, and the agency issued flash flood watches for the mountains throughout five Southern California counties.

Sunday’s storms also struck in Los Angeles County, where firefighters had to rescue about 100 hikers and picnickers stranded in Azusa Canyon, said Mark Whaling, a spokesman for the county Fire Department.

``There were people covered with mud,″ he said. ``Some people got swept down a little bit.″

Flooding also was reported in the high desert town of Apple Valley, and several motorists were stranded along a highway near neighboring Victorville.

``There were quite a few stuck in washes,″ said Capt. Chris Norton of the Apple Valley Fire District. ``We were wading through water that was 3 to 3 1/2 feet deep.″

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