Unrelenting storms hit west

Western states did not see much break in severe weather on New Year's Eve.

BY P.J. HELLER | SANTA BARBARA, CA | December 31, 2004

Western states did not see much break in severe weather on New Year's Eve, with more rain and snow hitting southern California, and eight feet of snow blanketing the Sierra Nevada.

At least nine deaths have been attributed to severe storms in the west this week.

In southern California, winter storm warnings and flood advisories were posted through Friday evening.

This week's storms have caused numerous accidents, flooding, mudslides and power outages.

In Arizona, a dozen Sedona-area neighborhoods were evacuated as flooding took hold Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in California, forecasters said the heavy rains — expected to continue through the week and which could dampen the famed Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day — could cause mudslides and flooding in areas where forest fires burned last summer.

Some residents living near the burn areas were evacuated from their homes.

The storm dumped snow in the mountains in both northern and Southern California. A winter storm warning was posted for the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Forecasters said heavy snow and strong winds were likely Wednesday night through Friday in the mountains in northern California.

Flash flood watches and wind warnings and advisories were posted for much of Southern California, where up to 12 to 15 inches of rain was expected to fall in the mountains above Santa Barbara. Officials in the city of Santa Barbara offered free sandbags to residents to help them cope with flooding.

The Los Angeles Basin was expected to get 10 inches of rain. A severe thunderstorm warning, including the possibility of a water spout, was issued for parts of Orange County.

Late Tuesday night, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for southwestern Los Angeles County.

The storm brought hail, thunderstorms and lightning to some areas.

A mudslide forced the closure of the northbound lanes of Highway 101 at the Gaviota Tunnel north of Santa Barbara, backing up traffic for 20 miles. The area was the site of a wildfire in June. Traffic was diverted over Highway 154; the roadway wasn’t expected to be reopened until sometime Wednesday.

A rockslide on scenic Highway 1 south of Big Sur forced the closure of a quarter-mile stretch of that roadway in Monterey County. Flooding on Highway 1 near Carmel also caused major problems for motorists.

At least 10,000 customers of Southern California Edison lost power as winds gusted to more than 60 mph, sending trees and limbs crashing into power and telephone lines. In some areas, power flickered on and off during the early evening hours. In most cases, power was quickly restored although certain areas remained without electricity late Tuesday night.

At least two deaths were attributed to the storm. One was a trucker killed on Interstate 5 when his big-rig crashed in the Tejon Pass near Pyramid Lake. The other fatality was a surfer in San Mateo County. Numerous traffic accidents were reported throughout the area. In Santa Barbara, high seas ripped several boats from their moorings and tossed them onto the beach.

The winter storm, which began Monday off the northern California coast, soaked San Francisco with 3 inches of rain and caused flight delays at San Francisco International Airport. Marin County to the north reported 6 inches of rain.

Forecasters said the wet wintery weather was expected to continue through New Year’s Day, putting a damper on the 116th Tournament of Roses Parade. It hasn’t rained on that parade since 1955.

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