Area starts healing process
Threats from nature still looming
Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - A few mountain dwellers were straggling home under CHP escort Wednesday, even as others were battling to get free from their woodsy enclaves that were cut off by massive mudslides.
California Highway Patrol cruisers also led three trucks up to the Stater Bros. market in
, which was running low on stock. Lake Arrowhead
And sheriff's deputies made a tragic discovery Wednesday. They recovered the body of Maureen Martinez, 35, of
, who had been missing since Monday night after being swept away by floodwaters in City Creek. Highland
The rain-soaked region, with a forecast of rain-free skies through Sunday, began pulling itself together, but some areas remained under nature's gun as new disasters occurred. "We've just got an awful lot of assessment to do,' said Bill Postmus, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, who planned to tour the
's damage today. "It could have been worse but what did happen sure was significant.' High Desert
At least 20 people in
California, including , died in the wave of storms that began Friday. Martinez
Damage costs have not been assessed. Officials were unable to come up with even a rough estimate, county spokesman David Wert said. Mountain woes
Many mountain roads remained closed or inaccessible Wednesday.
The CHP will escort vehicles in groups of 15 to 20 up and down Highway 18 from 5 to 7 a.m. today. A planned escort on Highway 330 was canceled.
Highway 18 from
Big Bear Laketo will be closed for an undetermined amount of time because huge chunks of the road way is gone. Highway 38 reopened Tuesday night. Highway 138 from Interstate 15 to Lucerne Valley Old Mill Roadreopened Wednesday for residential traffic only. The Arctic Circleis expected to remain closed for up to a week.
Caltrans is discouraging all but residential traffic in the mountain areas because of continuing erosion.
Being trapped atop the mountains forced many people to skip work, providing plenty of time to wait in long lines for gas and food. "Shoppers hit us pretty hard,' said store manager Mike Kuroyama. "But we're stocked and ready to go.'
Others found being stranded to be a frustrating experience.
"I went to take a detour and got stuck in a neighborhood,' said Shirley Tracchia of Crestline. "It's very dangerous, very scary. You see a lot of confused people trying to find a way off the mountain.'
River takes house
After teetering for days on the edge of the rain-swollen
, a three-bedroom ranch house in Oro Grande broke in pieces, slipping into the raging current. Mojave River
"It went a section at a time, piece by piece, floating downstream,' said Grant Evenson, co-owner of the 100-acre Whispering Leaves Ranch on
National Trails Highway.
river reached a width of about 600 feet, carrying away a bunkhouse and garage, a truck and a bus, farm equipment and scores of trees. High Desert
About 40 acres of farmland adjacent to the untouched Roy Rogers Double R Bar Ranch also was torn away. Ranchhands rescued two horses and kept an eye on eight others.
The cascading river, fed by mountain runoff and releases from
and the Mojave Forks Dam upstream, surrounded a two-story house and threatened a cattle feed lot downstream near Helendale. Silverwood Lake
Near the river bridge on National Trails just north of Victorville, heavy flow washed out 3,000 feet of frontage at the Gold Gulch Ranch. Construction slowed
Rain has cost contractors extra money and set several projects in the
area three or more weeks behind schedule. San Bernardino
contractor Randy Wages said he had employees working round the clock over the weekend to prevent mud from his projects from entering public streets. Redlands
Now that the rain is stopped, pumps are being used to drain water out of concrete footings, he said.
Kyle Dorland, project manager for Opus Corp., said a two-story speculative office structure the company is building in
"is one of the luckier ones.' San Bernardino
"Had we been doing earth work, it would have been a much bigger mess,' he said. Threats remain
Sue Cannon, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, expects to fly in Friday from
to assess how areas burned in the 2003 Old Fire reacted to the heavy rains. She also will take a look at some of the landslides along other parts of the mountains. Colorado
Cannon has been studying how burned areas are reacting since the 2003 wildfire. Predicting debris flows or landslides is not an exact science, Cannon explained.
"What we try and do is look at it in probabilistic terms,' Cannon said. "You can't say yes but you can say there is a chance this will happen. There are so many factors that relate to each other that it's hard to quantify.'
As long as rain stays away, low-level areas should dry out over the next four to six days, Cannon said. Higher elevations will be trickier, she said, because the snow will melt and run off.
The potential for dangerous slides remains, regardless of whether any more rain falls.
'Moisture can continue to infiltrate deep into the soil,' Cannon said. "That can be destructive, not like debris flows like those on Christmas (2003), because they are moving slow and you can move out of the way.'
An ongoing threat of another type of natural hazard could cause problems, said Normal Meek, a geographer based at Cal State San Bernardino. An earthquake, even a smaller one such as the 4.4 that rumbled in
last week, could shake terrain still tender because it is waterlogged, he said. Fontana
"If this area starts jiggling, we could get a major slide,' Meek said. Still digging out
County public works employees expected to move into Lytle Creek this morning with front loaders and other heavy equipment to clean up mud and rocks from
Lytle Creek Road, which may open by tonight.
A helicopter brought medications to residents and flew out two people, including a pregnant woman, to area hospitals for treatment,
spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said. county Fire Department
remained open for residents seeking shelter. Lytle Creek Community Center
Southern California Edison crews worked to restore power to 490 Lytle Creek customers. All customers except those in the Green Mountain Resort were expected to have power by Wednesday evening, SCE spokesman Gil Alexander said.
Crews faced delays because their heavy trucks could not reach several damaged poles and lines, he said.
Like others throughout the region, some people tried to make improvements on their own.
David Schroeder, an employee of the Montclair-based Chino Basin Water Conservation District, walked toward a bridge to find that water almost completely covered it.
Schroeder watched a resident working with a backhoe to protect a leaning power pole. Eventually, the man moved upstream to attempt, it seemed, to cross.
"But he never made it,' he said. "The water started rushing over the seat. He was stuck square in the middle. He ended up climbing into the top of cab.'
Someone threw the man a rope and seven or eight others pulled him to safety, Schroeder said.
The backhoe operator wasn't the only one braving the waters, he added.
The rains caught two dogs, a Shepherd and a
Labradormix. The Lab mix got stuck on an island during the washout and tried to make it across, only to get washed away.
Schroeder said he felt helpless watching the animal struggling to keep his head above water and even started making a plan to save it. The dog was washed all the way down to
and eventually, swam out. Green Mountain
The Shepherd, on the other hand, was a little smarter. The dog took the safer main road and made it across
Lytle Creek Road. The canine buddies were eventually reunited and trotted off.
Staff writers Jim Steinberg, Bill Byron, Mildred Farnsworth, Melissa Pinion-Whitt and Edward Barrera contributed to this report.