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‘I’ll be able to get out today’: Hilary’s captives dig out

With the sun shining and the rain brought on by Tropical Storm Hilary gone, Lucy Beeson peeked out of her Lancaster home and decided she could finally go outside.

The storm drenched Southern California with record rainfall, leaving behind residual floodwaters in the Antelope Valley that trapped Beeson, 78, in her home Sunday and Monday.

By Tuesday morning, looking out her front door, Beeson could see that the water had receded.

“I think I’ll be able to get out today. I’m not sure,” she said. “It was pretty bad. The water was all the way up to my neighbor’s knees and he’s a tall man. I was too afraid to go outside, but we saw some of the neighborhood kids playing in the water.”

In the aftermath of the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in decades, residents throughout the Inland Empire and the San Bernardino mountains were beginning Tuesday to find their way out from behind the mud and debris flows and floodwaters that trapped many since the downpours began in earnest Sunday afternoon.

While authorities reported few injuries in the region, several trapped residents had to be rescued by helicopter and a man who was caught in fast-moving waters in Chino Hills was plucked out by firefighters. As of Tuesday morning, rescue teams were still working to get to access to some residents in hard-hit San Bernardino mountain communities.

Beeson said she got a call from the city Monday evening with an update on post-storm conditions in Lancaster, but she explained that flooding is nothing new in her neighborhood, where she has lived for 12 years.

“This happens every year,” she said. “This year’s the worst. Every time we have a storm, we get flooded in. Every time we see that a storm is coming, my husband and I go out and get provisions.”

Lancaster received 4.5 inches of rain, and spokesperson Brianne Terrell said the city identified three major areas that require debris removal, with cleanup and recovery efforts likely to take the rest of the week.

There were no reported injuries among the 170,000 residents, but a significant portion of the community has “experienced disruptions” due to the storm, Terrell said.

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris credited the city’s public works department for preparing ahead of the storm and working to unclog drainage systems.

“With the spirit of collaboration and unity, I am confident we will shine brighter than ever,” Parris said in a statement.

Farther south, Palmdale received almost 4 inches of rain, which accounts for nearly half of the year’s average total rainfall for the area, according to meteorologist Mike Woodruff from the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

“It was a substantial storm, with significant flooding as a result,” Woodruff said.

The downpour caused a large retaining wall in Palmdale to collapse Sunday evening, severely damaging multiple homes, said Capt. Sheila Kelliher with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Crews Monday evening were moving large sections of dirt and mud from the damaged wall near 25th Street and Avenue S. There were no reported injuries.

“There is residual flooding in the Antelope Valley, but it’s dissipating,” Kelliher said. “You’re still seeing that residual flooding in areas that is impacting access.”

Overall, the region has fared well against the storm, she said, crediting emergency crews for being prepared and residents for heeding the advance warnings to stay out of dangerous situations.

A man was rescued from the San Antonio River in Chino Hills on Sunday evening by a helicopter crew with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Officials received reports of a person in the water and the rescue helicopter crew was able to hoist the man out of fast-moving water and transport him in critical condition to a local hospital, Kellier said.

“The person was going fast in the water and the crew thought they lost him at one point, because he went under,” she said. “It was a dramatic rescue.”

Emergency responders continue to work in the San Bernardino mountain communities of Seven Oaks, Forest Falls and Oak Glen, where flooding and debris flows from the storm trapped residents for at least two days. Several residents in a mobile home community in Seven Oaks were cut off from outside access, without water or power and acessible only by helicopter, said San Bernardino County Fire spokesperson Eric Sherwin. He estimated there were about 15 residents still stuck Tuesday; some were airlifted out Monday.

“With limited access, we’re flying in there,” Sherwin said Tuesday morning.

A 200-foot section of Glass Road, Seven Oaks’ only connection to Highway 38 — the region’s main artery — was wiped out by flash flooding, Sherwin said. Firefighters are working to build a footbridge over the Santa Ana River to allow residents to leave, he said.

Officials were able to clear portions of the roadways that had cut off two other mountain communities — Forest Falls and Oak Glen — after flash flooding, Sherwin said, allowing single-lane or emergency traffic through.

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