A house was sitting precariously on an eroded hillside near the edge of a rain-swollen creek in Lake Elsinore as a powerful storm swept through Southern California on Thursday.
The two-story home was located in the 15100 block of Alvarado Street in Alvarado A, one of several neighborhoods in the Holy Fire burn area of Riverside County that was under a mandatory evacuation order.
Ken Sorenson, who lived across the street from the impacted home, told KTLA Thursday morning that his neighbors were still inside the residence when torrents of rain sent water -- along with mud and debris -- gushing down the normally dry creek.
“They wouldn’t get out, and their outbuildings fell into the river. She was clinging to a bicycle," he recalled. “I can’t see how any material things are that important.”
Sorenson described the conditions as the worst he's ever experienced.
“I’ve lived her 20 years and it’s never been this bad," he said. "I think it's because of the [Holy] fire."
Eventually, his neighbors did heed the evacuation order and left. No one was home by the time the Riverside County Sheriff's Department knocked on their door.
Emergency personnel have been going door to door in the neighborhood, ensuring people knew to get out as conditions continued to deteriorate amid a steady downpour of rain.
“What we’re seeing behind us is the exact reason why we’re hoping people are heeding those warnings," Cal Fire Riverside Jeff LaRusso told KTLA, speaking of the house that was near the creek's edge.
Exposed water pipes could be already be seen as the hillside slowly eroded throughout the morning, video from the scene showed. Other structures appeared at risk, including one with a collapsed roof, prompting concern about the homes along the stretch of creek.
“The ground is going to continue to get more and more saturated, it’s going to give way, and we can’t predict where that’s going to happen," LaRusso said.
The poor weather conditions were expected to linger in the area through mid-afternoon, but crews were expected to remain on hand all day to monitor homes in the area.
Still, according to LaRusso, there's nothing that can be done to prevent the foundation from giving way.
“In the case like this, there’s nothing we can do other than, you know, try to protect properties as best we can," he said. "But things like this, nothing we can do."
The storm appeared to have hit the Alvarado area particularly hard, as water service was out at some houses, according to Mayor Steve Manos.
The local water district was preparing to distribute free water to affected residents, he told KTLA.
And adding to the difficulties: some roads in the area have been washed out as a result of the storm.
“It’s like nothing we’ve never seen before,” Manos said.
Residents who are still in areas that have been evacuated are urged to heed the order and get out it is safe to do so.
“There’s nothing more important than people’s lives. Takes your pets, take your important papers, pack up," the mayor said.