Southern California rains prompt rescues, evacuations after flood

As Tuesday’s powerful storm hit southern California, firefighters pulled a man from the Los Angeles River and searched for other possible victims, while Orange County emergency crews rescued trapped homeowners by mudslides.

At approximately 7:50 a.m., firefighters received a call from a man who had been swept away in a small tributary of the LA River in Sylmar, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. Usually shallow and gentle currents, the river and its branches have been transformed by the storm into torrents.

The man was transported about half a mile and into an underground tunnel near Dronfield Avenue and Hubbard Street, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Nicholas Prange said. In the dark, he managed to grab an object to keep himself from being swept away further downstream, Prange said.

“He was still on the phone with dispatchers relaying the message over the radio,” Prange said.

Sounding the fire truck’s horn to alert the man to their location, the rescue team checked one maintenance hole after another until they found it.

After being taken to safety, the man treated him for scrapes, cuts, bruises and hypothermia, Prange said. How he got caught in the river was not immediately clear.

Earlier Tuesday morning, passers-by reported a rollover accident on North Main Street in Chinatown, near the LA River, according to firefighters.

Within minutes, firefighters realized the vehicle had fallen into the swollen and swift river and was swept away, Prange said.

Firefighters took up positions on downstream bridges as a helicopter flew in search of the vehicle and its possible occupants.

After two hours, teams spotted the vehicle stuck under the Washington Boulevard Bridge near Soto Street in south Los Angeles, about four miles downstream, Prange said. No casualties were found.

Shortly after, firefighters saw a second car swept away by the suddenly powerful current of the river. As the water continued to rise, the two vehicles got stuck against the footing of the bridge.

An hour later, a third vehicle, a gray Toyota Camry, crossed the bridge and continued downstream to Long Beach, where it finally came to rest, completely submerged, in the center of the river near Wardlow Road, said Captain Jack Crabtree, spokesperson for the Long Beach fire.

Firefighters had planned to let the waters calm before trying to get the vehicles out of the river. It was not known how the vehicles entered the river and whether they were operating or parked before being swept away.

The search for victims continued.

Elsewhere in Southern California, San Bernardino County officials announced evacuation orders as mud and debris from fire-ravaged slopes threatened to damage dozens of homes and businesses in communities mountains and foothills including Oak Glen, Yucaipa, Forest Falls, and Nealey’s Corner.

There were no reports of injuries or property damage Tuesday morning, although some roads were closed due to mudslides, San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesman Eric Sherwin said.

In Orange County, mudslides spilled in the Silverado Canyon neighborhood, near where the Silverado fire burned in the fall of 2020, the Orange County Fire Authority said on Twitter . Fire crews rescued a number of residents who were trapped inside their homes by the gushing mud. No residents or members of the rescue team were injured during the operation.

In Calabasas, high winds tore trees from their roots along Mulholland Drive, forcing roads to be closed. The storm also cut down trees in Whittier, Long Beach and the Santa Clarita Valley, where minor landslides and debris flows were also reported.

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