Final victim sought in mudslides’ path

/ Source: The Associated Press

Californians escaped another bout of flooding Tuesday after a rainstorm bearing down on the region veered out to sea and missed the mountains where mudslides killed 15 people on Christmas Day.

The approaching storm renewed fears that floods would wash tons of mud, boulders and trees through areas of the San Bernardino Mountains where autumn wildfires wiped out soil-retaining plants.

Up to 3 inches of rain had been forecast for the mountains, but the showers missed the flood-ravaged areas, said Ryan Kittell, a National Weather Service specialist. The rest of the week is forecast to be dry except for a chance of showers Friday.

“The storm took even more of a turn out to sea. It’s raining pretty heavily but it’s raining where nobody lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, authorities pledged Tuesday to keep looking for a 12-year-old boy who remained missing five days after flash floods and mudslides roared down through the San Bernardino Mountains, killing at least 15 people.

Edgar Meza is the last unaccounted-for member of a group of family and friends who gathered at a church camp on Christmas Day, according to authorities.

Search continues
“We’re not going to stop looking for him,” said Chip Patterson, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. “Throughout the coming days and weeks we’re gonna have search dogs going throughout the area, and hopefully we can find him too.”

Nearly all flash flood watches and other weather advisories across the region were canceled early Tuesday after a new Pacific storm that had been expected to dump up to 3 more inches of rain instead moved to the west and south.

A new forecast called for less than a half-inch of rain for Southern California, the National Weather Service said.

Baby's body recovered
On Monday, searchers found the body of a baby in Waterman Canyon below the St. Sophia camp. Eight-month-old Jeremias Monzon was the son of Jorge Monzon, 41, the caretaker of St. Sophia Camp, and his wife, Clara, 40, whose bodies were found Sunday.

Also, state officials said that six weeks before Christmas they had warned the manager of a trailer camp where two other people were killed to remove trailers from the property, citing safety concerns.

Janice Arlene Stout-Bradley, 60, the manager of the Kampgrounds of America trailer camp, and Carol Eugene Nuss, 57, died when a flood swept through the site about five miles to the west in Devore.

After surveying hundreds of sites in the San Bernardino Mountains, the California Geological Survey said it identified the camp as posing the greatest risk for loss of life and property. A report found that a channel about 80 feet wide could sweep water, mud and large boulders into parked trailers.

“We told the manager the best thing to do was evacuate,” said Tom Spittler, the office’s senior engineering geologist.

One of the owners of the camp, John Gordon, said that as far as he knew, he never received notification from anyone.

Guatemalan immigrants
At the St. Sophia camp, which serves Greek Orthodox churches in the Los Angeles area, family and friends had apparently gathered to celebrate Christmas after an invitation by the Monzon family. Many of the guests, 14 of whom escaped the floods, were Guatemalan immigrants who attended a San Bernardino church.

Monzon, who lived at the camp with his family in a two-room apartment, did not have permission to hold the gathering, said Father John Bakas, dean of St. Sophia Cathedral of Los Angeles. The camp will remain closed indefinitely.

Bakas and a few members of the congregation went to the camp to hold a memorial service.

“We’re devastated,” he said. “We’re concerned about the human loss. We are a faith community committed to try to do what we can to try to make some sense of this.”