Thirteen Lives Taken by Flash Floods

Church asked for volunteers before disaster struck
( [email protected] ) Jan 03, 2004 12:44 PM EST

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Church in the Southern California region asked for volunteers to prevent disaster – before the deadly flood that took 13 lives. The wildfire-scarred campground in San Bernardino was the site of a deadly mudslide during the Christmas season.

At the St. Sophia Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles, parishioners asked for volunteers.

"Sandbags, the camp needs sandbags! The hills and forest surrounding St. Sophia Camp is burnt, the trees and vegetation are gone, and the camp will be in danger from mudslides during any moderate to heavy rain,” said the Church’s December newsletter, which came out before the deadly mudslide.

The Rev. John Bakas, dean of the cathedral, said Friday that his church had planned for runoff protection at the campsite in the San Bernardino Mountains, but didn't expect the kind of flash flooding that happened.

"Does anybody expect the kind of catastrophe? No. Mud and debris is a lot different than a deluge," he said.

Thirteen people were killed and a child was still missing Friday following the flash flood in Waterman Canyon. Another flash flood the same day killed two people at a nearby KOA campground.

Bakas said the camp was supposed to be closed on Christmas and a gathering hosted by camp caretaker Jorge Monzon wasn't authorized by the church. The only people authorized to be at the site were Monzon, his wife and their three children, all of whom were killed in the mudslide.

A 30-mile swath of the mountains was scorched by fall wildfires, leaving them prone to erosion and flash flooding