Wet West Aftermath: Southern California Communities Surrounded By Mud

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

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.

Californians Cope with a Week of Extreme Weather

Since Friday, Southern California has been hit hard by heavy rains – creating scores of accidents and residents preparing to evacuate.

In the Lytle Creek area of San Bernardino County Tuesday night, a woman had to be rescued from her truck after she tried to drive through fast moving water.

"She's lucky. When she went off the edge, I thought we were going to be doing a body recovery. She was very fortunate," Greg McClintock of the San Bernardino County Fire Department told KABC.

Five separate storms have hit San Diego alone, leaving Qualcomm Stadium looking like a swimming pool. Still, today's Poinsettia Bowl between Navy and San Diego State is scheduled to be played. Workers pumped a million and a half gallons of water out of the stadium on Wednesday, According to the Washington Post.

Elsewhere in the city, one hotel, the Premiere Inn, was literally turned into an island, surrounded by water on all sides.

Lifeguards were forced to bring in boats to rescue stranded guests.

"When I got in the water, it was freezing. I'm talking about it totally sent me through shock," said Tralita Stalcup, one of the guests who evacuated. "I was crying a little bit because I was scared."

Storm Slams Into Southwest Before Moving East

California wasn't the only state pounded with heavy rain.

Torrential rains swept through Nevada and Arizona like a monsoon, flooding typically dry communities.

The rushing waters smothered homes and pushed cars through neighborhoods.

About 300 homes in Mount Charleston, Nevada, have been without power for the last 48 hours and residents now face the prospect of Christmas by candle light.

Flooding from heavy rains destroyed at least four homes along the Beaver Dam Wash area Tuesday afternoon, the Tucson Citizen reported.

Utah officials have lifted an evacuation order for the town of Rockville after determining a dam on the Virgin River is not in danger of breaking.

Forecasters say the storm is moving east – bringing a white Christmas to places like Fargo, North Dakota and much of Minnesota.

Since Sunday, Utah's Wasatch Mountains received more than six feet snow with another two to four feet to come.

In Colorado, at least two to three feet of snow has fallen since Sunday and two to three feet more expected through today.

ABC News' Mike Von Fremd, Neal Karlinsky, David Wright, Max Golembo and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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