Man swept away in California flood; family hoping, searching

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Flooding, Mudslides Strand Southern California Drivers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard Harvell's family and friends have joined authorities in searching for the 67-year-old man, following floods that swept through his camping area in California last week.

Harvell was hit by mud and water as he tried to climb into his truck Thursday while a ferocious thunderstorm sent mud, water and debris down a mountainside, inundating roads, homes and vehicles.

SEE ALSO: Mud covers highways, strands drivers in southern California

Harvell had been camping in the flash-flood zone at the foot of the Tehachapi mountains with a boyhood friend who watched helplessly as he was washed away, his daughter Susan Garcia said Monday.

This undated photo provided by the Harvell family shows Richard Harvell, 67, of Boron, Calif., in the Mojave Deseert 70 miles north of Los Angeles. Friends and family members have joined authorities in searching for Harvell, apparently swept away during flash flooding that inundated California homes and roads last week. Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said Monday that Richard Harvell of Boron was last seen Thursday evening, Oct, 15, while trying to save his truck from a torrent of mud. Pruitt says Harvell's truck was later found a short distance away in the Rosamond area. (Courtesy Harvell Family via AP)

Family and friends have been searching with a Kern County Sheriff's Department rescue team in looking for him, their efforts sometimes interrupted by bad weather, Garcia said.

The team was using cadaver dogs, Garcia said, but added that she and her five siblings and their mother are holding out hope he's alive.

"We're not going to give up hope until they find him one way or another," she said.

Harvell, a Vietnam War veteran, knew how to survive in the rugged desert area near Boron, where he has lived for years, she said.

"He's definitely able to live off the grid if he had to," she said. "If it's possible for someone to survive this it would be him."

See photos of the flooding:

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Southern California interstate blocked in flash flooding
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Man swept away in California flood; family hoping, searching
Vehicles are stuck on a road after being trapped by a mudslide on California Highway 58 in Mojave, California on October 16, 2015, after torrential rains swamped the area and forced drivers and passengers to flee on foot. 75 tractor-trailers and two tour buses were among the 115 vehicles caught up in the disaster. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Vehicles are stuck on a road after being trapped by a mudslide on California Highway 58 in Mojave, California on October 16, 2015, after torrential rains swamped the area and forced drivers and passengers to flee on foot. 75 tractor-trailers and two tour buses were among the 115 vehicles caught up in the disaster. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A kayak used to get out of a mudslide is seen near vehicles still stuck on a road on California Highway 58 in Mojave, California on October 16, 2015, after torrential rains swamped the area and forced drivers and passengers to flee on foot. 75 tractor-trailers and two tour buses were among the 115 vehicles caught up in the disaster. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Police cars drive past vehicles that are stuck on a road after being trapped by a mudslide on California Highway 58 in Mojave, California on October 16, 2015, after torrential rains swamped the area and forced drivers and passengers to flee on foot. 75 tractor-trailers and two tour buses were among the estimated 115 vehicles caught up in the disaster. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Vehicles are stuck on a road after being trapped by a mudslide on California Highway 58 in Mojave, California on October 16, 2015, after torrential rains swamped the area and forced drivers and passengers to flee on foot. 75 tractor-trailers and two tour buses were among the estimated 115 vehicles caught up in the disaster. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A truck sits trapped by mud off of Elizabeth Lake Road in Leona Valley, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, after a fast moving rain storm a day earlier caused flash floods. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
A Los Angeles County firefighter use a front end loader to clear mud on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, after a flash floods the day before sent mud and debris through Elizabeth Lake road in Leona Valley, Calif., trapping cars and closing roads. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
This still frame from video provided by KABC-TV shows vehicles stuck in a muddy road in the mountainous community of Lake Hughes, Calif., about 65 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. Flash flooding in northern Los Angeles County has filled several roads with mud, stranding vehicles and blocking traffic on one of the stateâs main highways. (KABC-TV via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT; TV OUT
In a photo provided by Caltrans, water and mud cover Interstate 5 at Fort Tejon, about 75 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. Flash flooding sent water, mud and rocks rushing across Interstate 5, stranding hundreds of vehicles and closing the major north-south thoroughfare. (Caltrans via AP)
In this photo provided by Caltrans, vehicles are stopped in mud on California's Interstate-5 after flooding Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. (Caltrans via AP)
This image taken from video provided by KABC-TV, shows a vehicle stuck along a muddy road in the mountainous community of Green Valley, Calif., about 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. Flash flooding in northern Los Angeles County has filled several roads with mud, stranding vehicles and blocking traffic on one of the stateâs main highways. (KABC-TV via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT; TV OUT
Debris sits along Interstate 5 at Fort Tejon, about 75 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. Flash flooding sent water, mud and rocks rushing across the interstate, stranding hundreds of vehicles and closing the major north-south thoroughfare. (Caltrans via AP)
Debris sits along Interstate 5 at Fort Tejon, about 75 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. Flash flooding sent water, mud and rocks rushing across the interstate, stranding hundreds of vehicles and closing the major north-south thoroughfare. (Caltrans via AP)
This still frame from video provided by KABC-TV shows vehicles stuck in a muddy road in the mountainous community of Lake Hughes, Calif., about 65 miles north of downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. Flash flooding in northern Los Angeles County has filled several roads with mud, stranding vehicles and blocking traffic on one of the stateâs main highways. (KABC-TV via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT; TV OUT
Map locates Ft. Tejon and Mojave, California, site of flooding; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
FORT TEJON, CA - OCTOBER 16: Cal Trans crews work to clear mud, boulders and debris Friday morning, October 16, 2015, from the Southbound lanes of the I-5 freeway in the Grapevine after a heavy rain on Thursday closed the highway. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
FORT TEJON, CA - OCTOBER 16: Cal Trans crews work to clear mud, boulders and debris Friday morning, October 16, 2015, from the Southbound lanes of the I-5 freeway in the Grapevine after a heavy rain on Thursday closed the highway. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
FORT TEJON, CA - OCTOBER 16: Cal Trans crews work to clear mud, boulders and debris Friday morning, October 16, 2015, from the Southbound lanes of the I-5 freeway in the Grapevine after a heavy rain on Thursday closed the highway. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
FORT TEJON, CA - OCTOBER 16: Cal Trans crews work to clear mud, boulders and debris Friday morning, October 16, 2015, from the Southbound lanes of the I-5 freeway in the Grapevine after a heavy rain on Thursday closed the highway. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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Teams searched the foot of the mountains in the open desert near communities hit hard by mudslides. The area, which saw up to 6 feet of muck, is south of State Route 58 in Tehachapi, where Thursday's powerful thunderstorms triggered massive debris flows that trapped more than 100 cars, buses, RVs and big-rig trucks.

On Monday crews hauled away the last of the trapped vehicles, but tons of hardened mud still needs to be removed before traffic starts flowing again, officials said.

Drainage systems also need to be cleared along an 8-mile stretch of the highway about 80 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, said Florene Trainor, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation. Officials hope to reopen the highway by Thursday.

Geologists determined that nearby hillsides were stable, so there were no fears of another mudslide if it starts raining again, Caltrans officials said.

Carrie Bowen, a district director at Caltrans, said the agency is reviewing storm response to see if Caltrans could have done anything better, a standard procedure following major events.

"I don't know that we could have given the volume of mud," Bowen said.

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Associated Press writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this report.

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