Rich Pedroncelli  /  AP
Shanon Elam walks through the burned out remains of a neighbor's home in Concow, Calif., on Saturday. A wildfire there claimed one fatality and destroyed 50 homes.
updated 7/14/2008 9:38:39 PM ET 2008-07-15T01:38:39

More heavy rain was forecast Monday in Southern California, where crews were still clearing debris from weekend flooding and a mudslide that damaged more than 50 homes and blocked a highway.

The National Weather Service posted flash flood watches for the mountains of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, saying scattered showers and thunderstorms capable of producing heavy downpours were likely Monday.

Weekend thunderstorms over the southern Sierra Nevada range set off a mudslide that measured 300 yards wide and up to 3 feet deep, officials said.

The mudslide damaged more than 50 homes in an area scarred by wildfires last year near Independence, a remote, small town on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. It also blocked a state highway that is a major north-south route along the eastern side of the Sierra.

One lane of the road was reopened Monday with traffic escorted by the California Highway Patrol.

"It's slow going," said Carma Roper, spokeswoman for the Inyo County Sheriff's Department.

The weekend rain also caused flooding at the town of Lake Isabella in the southern end of the Sequoia National Forest, prompting Kern County officials to order about 75 homes evacuated.

A helicopter was used to rescue seven people, including three who were stranded on a roof surrounded by high water, said county fire Inspector Tony Diffenbaugh.

Officials said a three-week-old fire in the Sequoia National Forest likely contributed to the flooding in Lake Isabella, located in a canyon.

"When rain follows the fire this closely, there's no vegetation to stop or absorb it," said Jim Whittington, a fire spokesman at Lake Isabella. He said a major street was under 2 feet of water that was black with ash.

288 active fires
The state has seen hundreds of wildfires over the last month, and thousands of crews were still battling many on Monday.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said 288 blazes were still active around the state, most of them in the mountains ringing the northern edge of the Central Valley.

Most of those areas did not get any of the weekend rainfall that caused the Independence mudslide.

However, cool, moist air flowed inland from the Pacific early Monday in the area of Big Sur. Residents driven away by flames just days ago were returning to their homes, said Paul Van Gerwen, a battalion chief for the forestry and fire protection department, or CalFire.

And state authorities had reopened the last piece of scenic Highway 1 near Big Sur that had been closed because of the fires, he said. The California Highway Patrol was urging drivers to be careful because fire crews were still using the highway.

A large cleanup effort was under way in the Big Sur region Monday morning and most restaurants and hotels were back in businesses.

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