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Calif. search and rescue team finds missing woman dead after mudslides

Doris Jagiello disappeared when a downpour struck a recently burned area


The front yard of a property is covered in mud in the aftermath of a mudslide Tuesday in Oak Glen, Calif. A woman who went missing after flash floods unleashed mudslides that swept through her town in the Southern California mountains was found dead under a pile of mud, rocks and other debris, authorities said Friday.

Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Associated Press

YUCAIPA, Calif. — A woman who disappeared when a downpour in a recently burned area unleashed mudslides that tore through her Southern California mountain community was found dead under mud, rocks and other debris, authorities said Friday.

Thunderstorms late Monday triggered the mudslides carrying rocks, trees and earth that washed away cars, buried homes and affected 3,000 residents in two remote communities in the San Bernardino Mountains.

First responders, including K-9 units, searched for Doris Jagiello, 62, amid the devastation in Forest Falls, a former summer getaway for cabin owners that has become a bedroom community. A large debris flow, full of mud and “extremely large boulders,” hurtled downhill and crashed into Jagiello’s home, causing significant damage “and carrying away everything in its path.”

Jagiello’s body was found Thursday, buried under several feet (meters) of mud. Her remains were located about 20 to 30 feet (six to nine meters) from her home, in a debris-strewn area with rocks ranging from as big as basketballs and boulders to the size of small cars, sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Allison said.

“While this was not the desired outcome, the Sheriff’s Department hopes finding Jagiello will bring some measure of closure to Jagiello’s family and aid in their healing process,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Friday.

Allison said that one of her dogs was found alive inside her house but two others remain missing.

The woman’s family did not immediately respond to phone calls or text messages seeking comment.

The severity of the mudslide in Oak Glen and Forest Falls served as a powerful warning to residents about the destruction that can be wreaked months or even years after wildfires have been put out and the smoke clears.

An intense amount of rain over even a short period of time has catastrophic effects on hillsides where fire has stripped away vegetation that once held the ground intact. On Monday, nearly 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain fell atop nearby Yucaipa Ridge.

Mudslides had been a concern in areas of the San Bernardino Mountains that were burned by the deadly El Dorado Fire, which was sparked two years ago when a couple used a smoke device to reveal their baby’s gender. The couple was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of a firefighter.

In January 2018, mudslides thundered down a steep mountainside that had burned a month earlier. The slides killed more than 20 people in the tony beachside town of Montecito near Santa Barbara. The worst of the rain fell in a 15-minute span with Montecito getting little more than a half-inch (1.25 centimeters) in five minutes.