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Dry Spell to Give Desert Cities a Chance to Mop Up After Flooding; I-15 Reopens

A break of at least a couple of days is predicted. 'The worst is over,' forecaster says. Hard-hit Yucca Valley begins muddy cleanup.

August 22, 2003|Kristina Sauerwein | Times Staff Writer

Southern California desert communities tormented by torrential rain this week should be safe from flooding for the next couple of days, forecasters said Thursday.

"The worst is over," said Brad Doyle, forecaster for the National Weather Service in San Diego, which oversees San Bernardino County, one of the hardest-hit areas. "The threat of a flash flood has quickly decreased."

Residents of Yucca Valley, a high-desert city about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, were busy clearing mud and debris from Wednesday's storms.

The town manager declared a state of emergency Wednesday after two hours of rain caused flash floods that drenched homes and businesses, said James Schooler, Yucca Valley's director of community services.

On Thursday, the city received hundreds of calls from residents whose houses suffered water damage. Federal and county buildings, as well as several businesses, closed because of flooding, town officials said.

Trees, boulders and mud, sometimes more than a foot deep, blanketed major streets.

"It's bad," said Schooler. "It was a lot of water in a short amount of time. I've lived here for 27 years, and I've never seen anything like it."

Town officials on Thursday were tallying the damage, an amount that won't be known for a few days.

"It will be well into six figures," Schooler said.

Wednesday's rain dumped 2 inches in an hour across the Mojave Desert, unleashing flash floods as dry desert sand incapable of absorbing the moisture quickly created muddy runoff.

The floods swept dozens of vehicles off rural roads, overturned parked cars and forced authorities to shut down part of Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The floodwaters had damaged the Zzyzx Road overpass near Baker, and road crews worked through the night making repairs.

The roadway was reopened Thursday after being closed about a day.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department made 18 water rescues, and no injuries were reported.

In Lancaster, storm waters knocked down power poles and swept a woman's car several hundred feet off the road. A Los Angeles County helicopter crew rescued her.

The desert storms came just a day after similar cloudbursts in the Las Vegas area flooded homes and businesses and washed away cars. That storm caused an estimated $100 million damage to homes and businesses and left as many as 3,000 people without power for a time.

Las Vegas casinos were not affected.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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