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Mudslides shut down California town
01:30 - Source: CNN

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Story highlights

NEW: Hundreds of children and adults are being evacuated from a church camp in Forest Falls

One person is found dead after floodwater sweeps a car off the road and into a creek

Thousands were stranded in Southern California town

CNN  — 

As many as 500 children and adults are being safely evacuated Monday after torrential rain and mudslides trapped them at a Southern California church camp, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department told CNN.

The Forest Home camp had been trapped behind a mudflow in Forest Falls – some 80 miles east of Los Angeles – stranding staff and middle and high school students.

“We’ve been able to punch through that last wall of mud so that people on the other side can start making their way out of town,” fire department spokesman Ryan Beckers said.

Sudden rainfall Sunday had rendered most roads “impassable due to mudflows” in Forest Falls, San Bernardino Fire Capt. Kyle Hauducoeur said earlier. Thousands were stranded. Even a local fire station had to be evacuated.

So far, there have been no reports of injuries or missing residents in Forest Falls, population 2,000. Hauducoeur said the damage to homes due to flooding has not been severe.

But elsewhere in San Bernardino County, one person was found dead inside a vehicle that was swept off the road and into a creek by floodwater, county fire department spokesman Chris Prater said.

And 1,500 people in the nearby community of Glen Oak were stranded due to flash flooding, said Dennis Mathisen of Cal Fire.

The downpour combined with the terrain made conditions especially daunting.

“Try to imagine the bands of rains from a hurricane – that’s what we’re getting,” Hauducoeur said. “The difference (is) it’s hitting mountains. What was a dry riverbed could become a river 6 feet deep, 20 feet wide.”

He said some roads are now covered with 6 to 8 feet of rock, and “we have a lot of mud to deal with.”

Officials are asking residents to stay inside their homes and to call 911 if they need to be rescued. Hauducoeur said two swift-water rescue crews are in the area.

Hauducoeur said firefighters expect to be working the Forest Falls area for the next three to four days. But with ongoing wildfires in Northern California, resources will already be stretched thin.

The deluge in San Bernadino County came during one of the worst droughts in California history.

Much the state is grappling with “exceptional drought,” according to U.S. Drought Monitor. San Bernardino County has been dealing with “severe” or “extreme” drought.

Last month, California officials enacted statewide water restrictions involving lawn watering, car washing and ornamental fountains.

The dearth has been so bad that some thieves have resorted to stealing water.

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CNN’s Joe Sutton and Paul Vercammen contributed to this report.