Rescue and recovery efforts were underway in the wake of Tropical Storm Hilary, which caused mudslides that buried some mountain communities in Southern California.

Forest Falls, Oak Glen and Seven Oaks on the east side of the San Bernardino Mountains were hit hard by the first tropical storm to hit California in 83 years.

Some areas received more than six inches of rain during the storm, triggering destructive mudslides and debris flows.

Oak Glen Mudslide
Dramatic video shows a mudslide and debris flow that hit Oak Glen, California during Tropical Storm Hilary. Aug. 20, 2023. (Doug Chudy)

As the cleanup gets underway, miles of roads are still closed to many who live there. 

“I don’t know that we’re ever going to recover from this,” Kyle McLaughlin, whose family owns a restaurant in Oak Glen, told KTLA on Monday while surveying the damage. 

No stranger to storms and the concerns that come with them in a burn scar, Oak Glen resident Trina Delgado said she didn’t evacuate, but as the rain came down harder and harder, she was prepared to flee to higher ground.  

“This is the worst one I’ve ever seen … even compared to our snow and some of our rains,” she said. 

At least two mobile homes were carried away in a mudslide like boats on a river.  

One resident was swept away with their mobile home while, in another, a resident climbed onto the roof.

“The resident was able to ride on the roof of the mobile home until it eventually came to rest, and she was able to find safety on higher ground,” Eric Sherwin, with the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said. “That is something that we typically see on the TV, but don’t witness firsthand, but that did take place last night.”  

In Seven Oaks, some 30 people were trapped after the road into the community was completely washed out.

“Due to the significant amount of rain and debris that came through these areas, we have roads that have been undermined, roads that no longer exist,” Sherwin explained. “We have bridges that washed out.”

  • Mudslide sends firefighters running for safety
  • TS Hilary
  • Seven Oaks mudslide

Most of those residents have since been airlifted to safety, but at least 10 residents remained in the area Monday night, prompting county firefighters and paramedics to deploy into the isolated community and shelter in place with residents overnight.

“They’ll spend the night with these residents and come tomorrow morning, we’re hoping the flood waters will continue to recede to the point that we can affect a ground rescue,” Sherwin said.

In Forest Falls, a video captured the fast-moving wall of mud and boulders forcing a group of firefighters to turn and run for safety.  

As of Monday evening, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department lifted evacuation orders for residents in the El Dorado and Apple Fire burn scars, but residents in Seven Oaks and on Oak Glen Road are still under a shelter-in-place order.