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Calif. Storms Spawn Tornadoes; Six Dead


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Calif. Storms Spawn Tornadoes; Six Dead





LOS ANGELES (AP) - A deadly series of storms across California spawned everything from tornadoes to avalanches, flooding freeways with steady rain and sending rivers of mud crashing through homes.


At least six deaths have been blamed on the storm, including a woman buried by an avalanche north of Lake Tahoe and others who were victims of landslides, traffic accidents, falling trees and flooding.


Mudslides forced Amtrak officials to suspend service from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara at least through Tuesday. Service between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo wasn't expected to resume until next Monday. During the weekend, Metrolink also had canceled rail service for parts of the area because of flooding.


Forecasters said Tuesday that the long-lived storm system would bring at least another inch of rain to Southern California but was losing strength and could move out of the region by Wednesday afternoon. A flash flood watch remained in effect Tuesday for much of Southern California.



``I think we've probably seen the worst of the storm,'' said Ted MacKenchnie, a National Weather Service meteorologist.


Dozens of homes were evacuated or red-tagged - marked as uninhabitable - because they were threatened by sliding hillsides, authorities said.


Northern California also was hit by severe thunderstorms, hail and at least two afternoon tornadoes in the Sacramento area that uprooted trees and damaged roofs and fences.


The California Highway Patrol reported more than 300 crashes in a 14-hour period in Southern California, compared with 50 to 75 accidents on a normal, dry day.


A section of the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles was shut down for several hours late Monday because it was flooded by as much as 5 feet of water.


The wild weather came from a series of storms that began battering the state on Thursday, dumping 6.5 inches of rain in downtown Los Angeles.


A total of 31.40 inches of rain has fallen since July 1, the start of the region's annual ``water year'' measuring period, the fifth wettest on record. The record is 38.18 inches, set in 1883-84.


The consecutive days of rain has proven too much for saturated hillsides in Southern California.


A mudslide ripped into the bedroom of a home in the San Fernando Valley, killing a man by burying him under four feet of mud.


And in Orange County's rural Silverado Canyon area east of Irvine, boulders crashed into an apartment and crushed a 16-year-old girl, Caitlin Oto.


``If you saw the damage up there, it almost looks like the houses exploded, the way it went completely through the homes,'' said Capt. Stephen Miller of the Orange County Fire Authority.


In Northern California, 45-year-old Gerilyn Marie Ewing, of Reno, Nev., was killed by an avalanche Sunday while skiing between the Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley ski resorts north of Lake Tahoe. Up to 20 inches of snow had fallen in the area since Thursday.


Harbor Patrol officers had to battle high waves and wind early Monday off the coast of Santa Barbara to rescue a man whose sailboat was adrift with no mast and no engine power. They couldn't get close enough to pull him from the vessel, so they had him jump overboard and then dove in after him.


``You couldn't see what was coming. We were holding on for dear life,'' said Officer Jan Martinez. ``The waves were coming at such close intervals we'd push up through one, then come down just as another one was breaking on us.''


In Glendale, a foothill community north of Los Angeles, about 30 people in 11 homes were evacuated early Monday because of mudslides and flooding.


And in the coastal community of La Conchita, where a landslide killed 10 people last month, six of the 39 people still living in the town elected to leave because of the heavy rain and a steady flow of mud on the bluffs behind the town, said Capt. Bill Flannigan of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. However, no major new slides were reported in the county.


On the Net:


National Weather Service: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov



02/22/05 13:28



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