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Heavy rain brings mudslides, evacuations; Raging creek traps four people

October 8, 1997

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) _ Mudslides brought on by heavy rains and fire-stripped hillsides covered a foothill area of the city Tuesday, immersing cars in mud and debris, flooding homes and stranding four teens near a rising creek.

Snow and hail also fell in the San Bernardino Mountains above the city as thunderstorms moved through. Winds swept skies clean elsewhere in Southern California and churned the ocean.

A missing fisherman was sought in the rough water off the coast where a boat capsized Monday. A companion’s body was recovered.

In San Bernardino, four runaway teens were rescued from a slippery 30- to 40-foot-high ridge after rushing water trapped them for at least three hours, said Fire Department spokesman Tom Rubio.

``The runaways had been in the creek area. They had been camping in an unauthorized camp area since (Monday) morning,″ Rubio said. ``The rain was causing the creek to swell and rise″ and forced them to higher ground.

A construction worker spotted the teens _ 13- and 14-year-old girls, a 16-year-old boy with a hip injury and 17-year-old boy _ and summoned help.

Helicopters hoisted three youths, including the 16-year-old, to safety and they were rushed to a hospital. The other teen was able to climb down. They were cold and hungry, but otherwise in good health, Rubio said.

It was unclear how the 16-year-old injured his hip, Rubio said.

In a residential part of the city, an estimated 6-foot-high wall of water crashed into a group of apartment buildings at 5:42 a.m. Thirty-five people were evacuated, Rubio said.

Rain began falling at 5 a.m., sending a cascade of mud, debris and trees through city streets with clogged storm drains. A slope denuded by forest fires in the Running Springs area in July unleashed the mudslide.

Capt. Dan Frias of the California Department of Forestry said an estimated 12 to 15 homes were damaged by water and mud.

Homeowner Cynthia Smith’s pool filled with mud.

``It’ll take us a few weeks to clean this one up. But I have two weeks of vacation and nothing else to do,″ she said. ``I don’t think I have a choice, now.″

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