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Flooding keeps rescuers busy in Inland Empire

December 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Dangerous storms have been keeping emergency crews busy responding to several rescues in the Inland Empire.

Riverside County proclaimed a local emergency Tuesday as part of a response to major winter storm causing flooding, rock slides and road closures.

The proclamation comes as forecasters predict a new, stronger storm will sweep through the region overnight and into Wednesday. Between the pre-dawn hours on Monday and 8 a.m. today, Riverside County and CalFire firefighters responded to almost 500 calls for service, including 63 traffic collisions, 24 residential flooding calls and eight water rescues that led to the rescue of 13 people.

With the proclamation, Riverside County could be reimbursed by the state for emergency response costs if the governor also proclaims an emergency in Riverside County and state funds are made available. Riverside County has activated its Emergency Operations Center at the lowest level, which puts a management watch in place. That activation level could rise if problems increase as the new storm pushes through the area.

The county of San Bernardino proclaimed the existence Tuesday of a local emergency in response to the heavy rainfall occurring throughout the county, which poses a serious threat to communities in San Bernardino County.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary C. Ovitt, acting as the county's director of emergency services, signed the proclamation at 4:20 p.m. Tuesday.

The board of supervisors will meet Wednesday at 4 p.m., to ratify Ovitt's proclamation.

The county has successfully used its Telephone Emergency Notification System (TENS), also known as "reverse 911," to convey warning information to residents. The county has also activated its Emergency Operations Center in Rialto to coordinate the county's response, which involves numerous county departments.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is closing the two right lanes of southbound I-215 near the Chicago undercrossing for a deck closure pour repair.

Lanes 3 and 4 will be closed from just south of the 60/91/215 interchange to south of the Chicago undercrossing. The carpool lane in this area will be open to all traffic to help reduce congestion.

In addition, the southbound I-215 connector to southbound I-215/eastbound State Route (SR) 60 and the eastbound SR 91 to the southbound I-215 ramp will be closed to help ensure the safety of workers and motorists.

The closures will be in effect for an unknown duration.

An additional closure request for emergency work on I-215 was submitted and approved. The southbound I-215 will now be closed from 8 p.m. Tuesday until 6 a.m. Wednesday. Drivers will exit at 3rd St., head straight on the frontage road and back on the freeway at the 2nd St. southbound I-215 on-ramp. Complete closure information here.

The closure is necessary as crews work to finish the shoring piles and wood lagging on the northbound lanes of I-215 just north of the 5th Street bridge.

It has been raining nonstop in the Lytle Creek area for the past three days. One resident said that eight inches of rain had fallen in the area by Sunday. Lytle Creek overflowed its banks, and the water brought mud onto the roadways.

In San Bernardino County, a woman nearly got swept away by rising waters on Monday night. Rescue crews responded to the Lytle Creek area around 5:30 p.m. where the woman tried to drive through swift-moving water.

She drove about 100 yards when her vehicle got swept away. It went about a quarter of a mile downstream, but rescue crews were able to get to her and pull her out. She was taken to the hospital with minor hypothermia. She was expected to be OK.

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

McClintock said the woman did a good job by staying with her vehicle and not getting out of it.

There were also problems in the Sheep Creek area in the canyon just southeast of Wrightwood. Authorities said five to six homes were evacuated. One of the homes flooded.

In Norco, 37 horses had to be rescued early Tuesday morning because the water came down into the Santa Ana riverbed where the horses were kept. The animals were in more than four feet of water.

Horse rescue crews couldn't go in there until the swift-water team got there two hours later. Most of the horses are going to be OK.

Dozens of roads have been shut down across San Bernardino County because of flooding.

Many of the residents in their homes in Lytle Creek are stranded because of road closures. Some people who are at work won't be able to get to their homes later.

The same issue happened in Mt. Baldy, where officials said they had to use reverse 911 calls to let residents know that the only road into town had been flooded out.


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