Wet West Aftermath: Southern California Communities Surrounded By Mud

As the rain subsides, the clean up begins for areas hardest hit Wednesday.

ByABC News
December 22, 2010, 11:31 PM

Dec. 23, 2010— -- Southern California residents will get a break today from the wet weather that inundated the region with a year's worth of rain in just one week.

The series of storms that has pounded the area since last week has triggered mudslides, flooding, swift-water rescues and prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency for six counties.

But as the rain subsides and heads east, the clean up begins for areas hit the hardest by the strongest part of the Wednesday's storm.

In Laguna Beach, a wall of water four feet high poured through downtown, bringing with it a tide of mud. The heavy water has made driving nearly impossible near the Pacific coast, with puddles the size of lakes forcing road closures.

Another community that was drenched and damaged by mudslides was Dove Canyon, a community in Rancho Santa Margarita.

"When I stepped off the engine, (the mud) was about waist deep, and it was flowing rather rapidly," Capt. George Casario of the Orange County Fire Authority told ABC News Los Angeles affiliate KABC.

Firefighters said they performed 60 rescues in more than 30 homes.

On Wednesday morning, a mudslide devastated the town of Highland, Calif., near the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.

Jasmine Martinez had to leave her home as mud poured down the hillside Wednesday.

"We tried to open the gate because the mud was blocking it," Martinez told ABC News Radio. "So we couldn't get out. We couldn't leave."

Most of the residents' cars are now buried in mud, and more than 20 homes were destroyed in an instant.

"The current was going really hard. It was pushing us. Because we had to go back and get our id's, social security, important stuff. Because we thought it was to going to go away," Martinez said. "All the mud and the rain. So it was really horrible."

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works lifted evacuation orders Wednesday night for La Canada Flintridge and La Cresenta.

Earlier, officials Tuesday went door-to-door telling more than 200 homeowners in the area that it was not safe.

"After a few days of saturation, obviously that's where our big concern is," Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Al Bustillos told KABC.

In February, the area was hit with a mudslide that damaged or destroyed more than 40 homes, according to the Associated Press.

Over the weekend, residents barricaded homes with sandbags and K-rails.

If residents refuse the mandatory evacuation, officials make them sign papers acknowledging they are on their own.

In the mountain town of Green Valley Lake, rock slides and flooding and closed off access in and out of the town, the Los Angeles Times reported.