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IE crews race to move mud before looming rain

December 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Hundreds of volunteers are continuing to clear piled-up mud and debris from Highland before another round of rain rolls through the San Bernardino neighborhood Tuesday night.The mud reached as high as 6 feet in some parts of town when rain hit the area on Monday.

The big concern was more rain forecast to hit some time in the evening and linger into Wednesday.

Crews wasted no time getting preparations together early in the morning and had 20,000 sandbags ready to go if the looming rain brings more debris flow.

As city and county crews worked to clear out the mud, some families were able to get back into their homes to retrieve items, but a number of homeowners have been told to stay out until the next storm rolls through and the area is reassessed.

Meantime, storm channels have been cleared and retaining walls have been set up, but Cal Fire officials admit that only so much can be done to protect these homes.

"We have done everything we can. We have provided every safety measure we can, but we can't control Mother Nature," said Bill Peters with Cal Fire. "We saw her wrath last week. We have tried our best with all of the ability we have and resources we have to protect the city of Highland."

Some 600 people ranging from teens to senior citizens gathered at 8 a.m. to begin another day of helping their neighbors in need.

In the Highland area, 53 homes had minor damage and 20 homes suffered major damage and five homes were wiped out entirely from last week's mud flow.

One badly damaged home belongs to Louie Berrera. His home was hit with 5 feet of mud just days before Christmas.

"It's just hard. We can't sleep. We can't eat. It's just one thing after another, but it seems like a lot of positive things are going to happen here pretty soon," said Berrera.

He said he is humbled by the workers' generosity, but volunteers are quick to dodge any credit, saying the work isn't a burden but a privilege to know they're helping one of their own.

"We're going to be here digging our hearts out today," said one volunteer.

"Highland is absolutely awesome. It's a close-knit community. I love it here," said another volunteer.

The worst of the mudslides hit Autumn Chase Drive and Cherrywood Court.

Residents say that even with all the volunteer man power, it will still be a race against the clock to clear trouble spots before that rain falls Tuesday night.

"It's been a frustrating time really, but these guys are great. I just can't say enough about the people that have helped us here," said homeowner Nick Hernandez.

Experts say the next 12 hours of clean up is critical before the next round of rain rolls through Highland.


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