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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

California Mudslides

Aired December 29, 2003 - 10:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking at a live press conference from San Bernardino County, where the sheriff's department is talking about the mudlslides there and the rescue efforts now under way. Let's listen.
CHIP PATTERSON, SAN BERNARDINO CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT.: And again, we're focusing on the area of the camp, and also probably here in San Bernardino, below (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

And we're going to be searching that area again extensively with dogs and at the camp.

Regarding evacuations, the sheriff's department at this time is not doing any evacuations prior to the coming storm. We're going to wait and see and react as conditions change, and we have plans in place to do that, if we need to. And Tracey will talk in detail about what people should be doing and thinking about ahead of time.

So unless you have any questions, I'm going to turn it over to Tracey.

The catch basin? It's a manmade formation that's intended to spread out the water that flows down out of the mountain during rains. As you know, this type of soil on this type of topography doesn't absorb a lot of the water. That's common throughout California. You have channels and rivers running through the low-lying areas. So this is an area where the water comes down from the mountain and spreads out, and then continues down, and eventually goes into the Santa Ana River and continues toward the ocean.

QUESTION: Sir, are you going to tell people who live in the mountains or below the mountains in burn areas that they should just evacuate when it starts raining? are you going to force people out?

PATTERSON: Are we going to advise people to evacuate when it starts raining? No. We're going to advise people to use common sense and good judgment, and if they think they're going to be in danger, if the rain continues, a heavy rain, then sure. Don't take unnecessary risks. But the important thing is, they don't have to wait for us to tell them to get out, or the county fire department, or any kind of emergency message. Use good sense, and if you think you're in a low- lying area, well, you probably would know that. But if you are and you think it's going to rain heavily, then don't stay.

QUESTION: Tracey, you were saying yesterday that a lot of areas that weren't flood zones are now flood zones because the fires. TRACEY MARTINEZ, SAN BERNARDINO CO. FIRE DEPT. PUBLIC INFO. OFFICER: Absolutely. We had 30 miles, like I said before, of wild land fire just recently. So those that may not have been in flood zones perhaps are now.

Let me go ahead and just review the personnel real quick. The fire department has 15 personnel. The sheriff has about 18, so we have about 30, almost 35 personnel searching today, in addition to the five cadaver dogs. I do want to take this -- just a quick moment to really reiterate to folks the importance of being prepared. If you are not prepared for a flood, please take the time today and be prepared. Have your car prepared. Make sure you have gas. Put extra blankets, extra clothing, extra water. You may get caught in a flash flood. Adhere to the road signs.

Our biggest problem, when it starts raining, is folks think that they can drive through the water, and they end up getting stuck. The water flows much swifter than you can imagine. If you do get caught in a swift water and your vehicle is stuck, please, stay inside of your vehicle, OK, do not get out. Most likely, if your vehicle's stuck and you get out, you're going to be washed away as well. Are there any questions?

QUESTION: Regarding the search for the remaining two victims, these are children, the last few victims of last week's flood.

MARTINEZ: Yes, and we're very hopeful that we will find them today.

QUESTION: What are you using? You're using dogs, but no longer people going and sifting through the...

MARTINEZ: Well, we are using dogs, but we also have about 30 personnel out there as well, 30 to 35.

QUESTION: How do you respond, after seeing what happened, how the fire department responds?

MARTINEZ: The fire department and law enforcement personnel are a 24-hour service. This is nothing new for us. Now it's just that we have expanded, being that we had all those wildfires. We've definitely expanded our areas of potential flooding zones. The county roads, caltrans, all of them have been working very swiftly and as quickly as possible since the day the fire ended to try to divert water and to reroute water coming down.

Well, that hasn't been determined yet. I think by the end of the day, depending on if we locate the two remaining victims will determine how long our search will continue.

Well -- yes. yes, go ahead.

PATTERSON: You know, to be sure, I don't think we really thought we'd find this many. I think, based on the conditions and what actually occurred and the amount of debris and rock and the many miles that were affected, I think we were impressed that we found this many. And to find the other two, I think, would be good for the families. It would be good for everybody involved. If the rains come before that, obviously, we're going to shut this operation down. We can't search in the rain. It's too dangerous.

But we're hopeful that we can find the other two, maybe at the camp, maybe down below 40th Street. The dogs have been very helpful, and we have some areas that would they've alerted on to dig up. And you know, we all hope that we can find the other two, and that would be everybody.

COSTELLO: Very difficult things to talk about. Chip Patterson from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, talking about the two children still missing in those mudslides in San Bernardino County. And as you heard them say, they're expecting four more inches of rain.

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