A bulldozer was trying to reach 500 kids at a church camp in the San Bernardino mountains of Southern California Monday where nearly 2,500 residents were stranded by heavy rains that swept aside roads and vehicles in a torrent of mud, rocks and debris.
The heavy downpours claimed at least one life as authorities found a body in an overturned car that was apparently washed off the roadway near Bear Creek community, near Mount Baldy.
Many residents in the popular mountain resort area were urged to "shelter in place," particularly in Oak Glen, with a population of 1,500, and Forest Falls, with 1,000.
The muck was so thick it submerged a van in Forest Falls, while on Mount Baldy water swept a hot tub into the road.
The San Bernardino County Fire Department said on Twitter that U.S. Forest Service teams were searching the cut-off town of Forest Falls to account for local residents and assess damage.
The church camp where the hundreds of children were stranded is located near the town.
"Our concern is that they're isolated at that campground and no longer have access out of the mountain," said Kyle Hauducoeur, a county fire spokesman.
Residents in the hardest-hit areas were urged by reverse 911 calls to shelter in place until road crews could clear away the mud and debris deposited by heavy rain and fast-rising waters.
A U.S. Forest Service spokesman told KNBC-TV some campers had seconds to evacuate before a torrent of water washed their tents and belongings. "It sounded like a freight train coming through," Robert Ethridge said.
One man in Forest Falls was forced to escape a debris flow by climbing a tree, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Hauducoeur said a woman in Mount Baldy was rescued from her house before it was buried in mud. Four additional homes in the Bear Creek area were damaged by the debris flow, he said.
San Bernardino County Fire Capt. Josh Wilkins told the Times that calls for help had stretched his resources to the breaking point.
"Every rescue unit we have, every fire engine we have in San Bernardino County" had been dispatched, Wilkins told the Times. "We are literally approaching the maximum right now in terms of our call volume."
In the Angeles National Forest, a group of four or five people and a dog were airlifted to safety.
Flash floods and monsoonal weather also dumped driving rain in Palm Springs and across the Coachella Valley, causing flooding and several related traffic incidents. In the city of Redlands, the storm downed a tree and knocked out power to a few neighborhoods.
"The gods are angry," joked Palm Springs resident Janus Blythe. "I wish it was a steady rain instead of just coming down all at once, because then it floods."
Rains throughout Riverside County also caused havoc along roadways outside the valley.
The slow lane and right shoulder of Interstate 10 about 40 miles east of Indio were washed away in heavy runoff from thunderstorms and debris was reported across all lanes Sunday, according to a dispatcher with the California Highway Patrol.
The CHP also sent crews to a report of "hundreds" of cars stuck between flooded washes on State Route 62 west of the Vidal junction due to a broken water dike.
"The report was about 100 cars but we were unable to confirm (that it was) that many cars. Everyone is safely out," the CHP dispatcher said.
Contributing: The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun; Associated Press