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Mudslide, floods in SoCal; more could be ahead

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By RAQUEL MARIA DILLON

Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- More heavy rain was forecast Monday in Southern California, where crews were still clearing debris from weekend flooding and a mudslide that damaged more than 50 homes and blocked a highway.

The National Weather Service posted flash flood watches for the mountains of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, saying scattered showers and thunderstorms capable of producing heavy downpours were likely Monday.

Weekend thunderstorms over the southern Sierra Nevada range set off a mudslide that measured 300 yards wide and up to 3 feet deep, officials said.

The mudslide damaged more than 50 homes in an area scarred by wildfires last year near Independence, a remote, small town on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. It also blocked a state highway that is a major north-south route along the eastern side of the Sierra.

One lane of the road was reopened Monday with traffic escorted by the California Highway Patrol.

"It's slow going," said Carma Roper, spokeswoman for the Inyo County Sheriff's Department.

The weekend rain also caused flooding at the town of Lake Isabella in the southern end of the Sequoia National Forest, prompting Kern County officials to order about 75 homes evacuated.

A helicopter was used to rescue seven people, including three who were stranded on a roof surrounded by high water, said county fire Inspector Tony Diffenbaugh.

Officials said a three-week-old fire in the Sequoia National Forest likely contributed to the flooding in Lake Isabella, located in a canyon.

"When rain follows the fire this closely, there's no vegetation to stop or absorb it," said Jim Whittington, a fire spokesman at Lake Isabella. He said a major street was under 2 feet of water that was black with ash.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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