Video: West braces for mudslides

  1. Closed captioning of: West braces for mudslides

    >>> ing my get is just outside of los angeles with the latest on all this. good morning to you.

    >> this area is surrounded by mountains, much of the ground is rock and mud, it's been soaking in rain for days. this is of course the same area that burned during the station fire back in 2009 and now county officials want many folks in this area out. state of emergency . six california counties battered by extreme weather . in the foothills outside of los angeles , evacuation orders for hundreds of homeowners, the san gabriel mountains are drenched, these hills can't take much more. mud threatens to bury neighborhoods below. but many families ordered out won't leave.

    >> staying home. keeping an eye out to see if anything's going to happen.

    >> reporter: record rain in southern california will likely make december the wettest month in history and forecasters say today could bring several inches of additional rain. thunderstorms are expected, tornadoes are possible. a storm of historic proportions.

    >> this is probably among the top five rain events we have seen, even in the el nino years. series of storms has claimed lives, at least two fatalities on the road, another in the water. in northern california , a 62-year-old woman was killed when she drove into the russian river . tuesday flash flooding triggered a series of rescues, a swollen river trapped hikers in a canyon.

    >> it's not isolated to one portion of the city.

    >> reporter: the damage is in the millions, streets have buckled, trees have toppled.

    >> it's a band-aid on a major operation .

    >> reporter: the devastation spreads well beyond california. across many western states , dams are bursting, river raging. back in southern california , hundreds have been ordered out of the foothills, but even with historic rain, many have chosen to ride out the storm.

    >> when the deputies knock on your door, please leave . this is your lives that we're attempting to protect.

    >> reporter: at the moment, and we do want to stress at the moment, there is no rain, but forecasters say plenty of heavy rain and tornadoes potentially are on the way to this area. of course the big concern in these hills are mudslides and keeping residents out.

    >> miguel, thank you very much. those people need a break.

    >> they do indeed, a white christmas is one thing, but a wet christmas is something else, especially when so many people are travelitraveling.

    >> we are going to get a break, but we still have to deal with the rain today. look at our satellite picture , but notice that, destroy air, it is moving in, today we will see the showers from northern california all the way down into southern california . here's a closer look, miguel was getting a break, but there is more rain in the forecast. let me show you exactly how many we'll see, we are going to see another one to two inches of rain. unfortunately it looks like more showers in the forecast as we head into our weekend.

updated 12/22/2010 8:27:14 AM ET 2010-12-22T13:27:14

Flood waters ripped through a retirement community in northwestern Arizona Tuesday, washing away four unoccupied homes and threatening to destroy others.

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Meanwhile, evacuation orders were lifted in a small Utah town about 60 miles away after a dam feared close to breaking was declared safe.

But flood warnings and emergency declarations remained in place in some Utah, Nevada and Arizona counties, and more rain was expected overnight.

Story: Homes evacuated as monster storm heads for California

In Arizona, flood waters cut through a group of houses in the rural communities of Beaver Dam and Littlefield, sweeping away four homes after saturating the soil beneath them and causing them to collapse.

None of the wood-framed houses was inhabited, although a man was getting ready to move into one of them, said Jeff Hunt, Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District chief. The man and workers were putting finishing touches on the home but were able to gather their belongings before flood waters carried it away, Hunt said.

Hunt said about a dozen other homes in the two communities, which share a zip code, were still in danger of being destroyed as flood waters seeped into the ground. About 200 feet of roadway was washed away.

"I think that through the night we'll lose potentially several more, especially if we get the flows increasing," he said. "If we get more velocity, it will pick them off one at a time."

Evacuation orders initially ignored
Mohave County declared an emergency Tuesday because of flooding in the area — which also was hit by flood waters in 2005, when some homes and a bridge over the Beaver Dam Wash were destroyed.

Authorities began warning area residents late Monday that they should evacuate if heavy runoff from nearby mountains continued. Few people initially did so, but more heeded the warning Tuesday.

In Utah, evacuation orders for the town of Rockville, population 247, were lifted Tuesday evening after authorities determined the Trees Ranch Dam on the Virgin River was stable. Suspected leaking from the earthen dam was actually just saturated soil, said Kirk Best, regional engineer with the Utah Division of Water Rights.

The potential of the dam breaking led officials to issue evacuation orders for all of Rockville earlier in the day.

Nearby Zion National Park also was evacuated and shut down. Park officials said in a news release that they evacuated an unspecified number of people, including guests staying at the Zion Lodge and campers in the park.

Daniel McArthur, mayor of St. George, Utah, declared a state of emergency for his city about 40 miles southwest of the park due to flooding. Food waters also wiped out one of two bridges to the southern Utah town of Gunlock, the Washington County sheriff's office said.

A flood warning was issued for Utah's Washington and Kane counties through Thursday, and the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers were expected to crest again Wednesday afternoon.

In southern Nevada, a state of emergency was ordered after rain-swollen creeks closed some roads in the Las Vegas area and snow disrupted electricity to about 300 customers on nearby Mount Charleston.

County crews were expected to work through the night to clear roads so workers could restore power in the mountain area buried under 2 feet of snow.

Vegas flood emergency
Threats of flooding across Las Vegas prompted Clark County Manager Virginia Valentine to issue the emergency declaration Tuesday afternoon. She urged visitors to stay away from Mount Charleston, a popular tourist destination, until the storm passed.

The National Weather Service said more bad weather was expected overnight.

"We're still going to have largespread areas of rain but also the chance of thunderstorms," said meteorologist Jim Harrison of Las Vegas weather bureau. "There's going to be additional flooding concerns then."

A northwestern Arizona weather station recorded at least 10 inches of rain Tuesday, while rainfall ranged from 10 to 14 inches in southwestern Utah, Harrison said.

In Beaver Dam and Littlefield, many residents placed sandbags around homes and built dirt berms to try to control the flood waters. Others gathered things out of their houses, in close view of the homes that were swept into the Beaver Dam Wash and likely ended up in Lake Mead in Nevada, Hunt said.

"That's kind of the mentality in the rural area here — you build your own, you protect your own," Hunt said. "So they're doing their best."

One man with a history of heart problems went into cardiac arrest while working on a neighbor's home, but medical responders were able to control the situation and transported the man to the hospital.

Hunt said the man was in critical condition, but no other injuries were reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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