Powerful storm keeps lashing California

2010-12-21 09:59
Los Angeles - A powerful storm system with drenching rain, heavy snow and high winds lashed California, but forecasters warned the worst was yet to come.

Even stronger storms were bearing down on the state and threatened to dump another 12.5 to 25cm of rain during the next two days.

Virtually the entire state was affected by the bad weather.

Some locations in Southern California had received more than 30cm of rain, said meteorologist Jamie Meier of the National Weather Service. It was the most rainfall from one storm event since 2005, he said.

"That will make for a pretty good wallop, especially considering how dry things have been for the last two years," Meier said.

Downtown Los Angeles got 13.3cm of rain since Friday morning, more than a third of the average annual precipitation.

About 40 residents of the San Joaquin Valley farming community of McFarland were briefly evacuated on Monday morning amid fears that a nearby creek would flood.

A Kern County Fire Department statement said 2 000 residents had been ordered to leave their homes, but McFarland Police Chief David Oberhoffer told the Bakersfield Californian that only a few dozen people showed up at an evacuation centre.

Traffic deaths

Wrightwood, a mountain community high in the San Gabriels, was pelted with rain and snow when a series of thunderstorms parked above the peaks, flooding streets and homes.

In San Bernardino County, a car was swept down a wash near Rialto and briefly dragged underwater before a team of divers and rescuers managed to pull the driver out, said Sheriff's spokesperson Arden Wiltshire.

Elsewhere, a small twin-engine airplane was reported missing on a 105km flight from Palm Springs to Chino. Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Ian Gregor says wreckage was found near Lake Perris but investigators won't be certain that it's the missing aircraft until they can get to the scene on Tuesday, if weather permits.

The California Highway Patrol reported two rain-related traffic deaths on Sunday. A 3-year-old boy was ejected from a sport utility vehicle that went out of control in heavy rain in the Fresno area, and a 22-year-old man was thrown from a vehicle that hydroplaned and crashed in the Bakersfield area.

Flash-flood watches and warnings were in effect on Monday for some places, particularly mountain areas still scarred by wildfires.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company crews were working to restore power to the last of about 282 000 customers that lost electricity since the storm arrived. Southern California Edison had 13 000 customers still without power.

Repair crews braced for predicted winds of up to 72.4k/h, along with heavy rain and snow in elevated areas.

Elsewhere, a 32km stretch of the scenic Pacific Coast Highway between Malibu and Oxnard was closed to commuters after a rock and mudslide on Sunday night. The California Highway Patrol said no one was hurt.

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