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Picnickers rescued from flash flood in San Bernardino forest

August 31, 2008|Victoria Kim | Times Staff Writer

Fire crews stretched a ladder across a swollen creek bed to rescue seven picnickers who were stranded Saturday by a flash flood in the San Bernardino National Forest, a fire official said.

Authorities received a 911 call about 3:30 p.m. notifying them that a group was stranded by the thunderstorm at a picnic area at Mill Creek Wash in Forest Falls, said Tom Barnes, dispatch supervisor for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

A stream wrapping around the recreational area that is normally 6 to 8 inches deep quickly rose to 3 feet, making it impossible to cross, Barnes said. Rocks, logs and other debris were being washed away, he said.

Fire officials waited until the rainfall grew lighter and the waters receded to help the group crawl over the creek on the rescue ladder, Barnes said. No one was injured.

Thunderstorms in parts of San Bernardino and Riverside counties prompted flash flood warnings Saturday afternoon. Weather officials said rainfall was likely to die down later Saturday evening. Slow-moving storms over southwestern San Bernardino County and western Riverside County were expected to dump as much as 1.5 inches of rain, making flash floods likely in sparsely-populated desert and mountain areas, said Stefanie Sullivan of the National Weather Service.

In San Bernardino County, flood warnings were issued for the high desert areas of Apple Valley, Hesperia and Lucerne Valley, and mountain areas to the north and east of Forest Falls. In Riverside County, flood warnings were issued between Idyllwild and Lake Hemet.

In San Bernardino County, there were reports of flooded roadways, but no major highways were affected, Barnes said.

Sullivan cautioned drivers to stay aware of their surroundings and not to attempt driving through deep water.

A flash flood watch has been in effect for mountains and deserts in San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties since Friday night.

The area is affected by monsoon conditions each year between July and September, said forecaster Philip Gonsalzes of the weather service.

During the Southwestern monsoon season, moisture pushes into Southern California from the tropics, most often the Gulf of California, and creates the potential for rain and thunderstorms in mountain and desert regions, Gonsalzes said.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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