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Bridge collapses, motorists trapped, homes inundated in San Bernardino County

December 22, 2010 | 11:45 am

Flooding from pounding rains may have led to a bridge collapse in Highland on Wednesday morning, where San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies were scrambling to respond to emergencies including trapped motorists and flooding in homes.

In perhaps the most dramatic incident, the Boulder Avenue Bridge collapsed at 7:43 a.m. just after a deputy had crossed the it and noticed it was crumbling, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Cindy Beavers.

"He called for service and said the bridge was sinking," Beavers said. "He immediately stopped all traffic. It was about 10 minutes later that the bridge collapsed and the entire area was closed to traffic."

At 7:46 a.m., emergency dispatchers received calls from residents on Church Avenue reporting flooding in their homes and that a neighbor's residence was being washed away, Beavers said.

When deputies arrived they also found two vehicles that had been carried away by water and as much as two feet of mud. Several families reported being trapped because of rising waters. Eventually, deputies called for voluntary evacuations for the entire subdivision, Beavers said.

Some two dozen homes in East Highland near the intersection of Plunge Creek Road and Cochran Street were evacuated because of mud and debris flow and flooding. An evacuation center for Highland residents has been set up at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Beavers said.

Beavers said it was all hands on deck for sheriff's personnel in Highland.

“All of our personnel minus clerical staff at our Highland station is on the street blocking roadways or assisting with rescues in neighborhoods," Beavers said. "I think the city has used every barricade they have to block off roads.”

In Loma Linda, dispatchers received at least a dozen calls about hazardous conditions from heavy rain and flooding.  More than a dozen vehicles -- including a sheriff's patrol car -- became disabled in rising waters at Lawton Avenue and Benton Street, Beavers said. Those motorists were rescued and authorities were waiting for floodwaters to recede before towing the vehicles out of the muck.

In Redlands, fire crews rescued six people trapped in two vehicles at San Timoteo Canyon Road and Fern Avenue around 7 a.m. Four people were transported to Redlands Community Hospital, where they were treated for hypothermia and released. A Fire Department engine also was disabled by mudslides.

-- Andrew Blankstein


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Image: Radar shows heavy rain over San Bernardino County. Credit: National Weather Service.