Storm pounds CA

An unrelenting winter storm continued to pummel California on Sunday with heavy rain and snow, along with gusting winds.

BY P.J. HELLER | LOS ANGELES, CA | January 9, 2005

An unrelenting winter storm continued to pummel California on Sunday with heavy rain and snow, along with gusting winds. No let-up was in sight for the next few days.

Up to 6 inches of rain were expected to soak coastal areas through Tuesday with 12 to 24 inches in the coastal mountain and valley areas. Rainfall rates were forecast at times to be more than one-half-inch per hour.

Up to 2 feet of snow was predicted in the mountains above 7000 feet.

Flash flood warnings, advisories and watches were posted throughout most of southern California. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) issued a landslide advisory for the region as well.

The storm downed trees and caused mudslides, flooding and power outages, making travel hazardous throughout the area. Hundreds of traffic accidents were reported and numerous roads and highways were closed due to flooding, slides and trees downed across roadways.

Some evacuations were reported, including a recreational vehicle park in Ventura County, about 75 miles north of Los Angeles, and a mobile home park in Santa Clarita northwest of Los Angeles.

With the ground already saturated from up to four days of downpours, forecasters warned that the additional rainfall could cause even more severe flooding. Officials were also closely monitoring burn areas for flooding and mudslides.

"Rainfall rates of one-half inch per hour will be common with local rates around 1 inch per hour," the National Weather Service said. "This additional rainfall will only increase . . . the likelihood of mudslides and debris flows, especially in and near the burn areas."

Traffic, particularly in the greater Los Angeles area, was snarled for hours. One motorist reported it took nearly an hour and a half to go just one exit on Interstate 210.

Foggy conditions added to motorists' misery. The California Highway Patrol and California Department of Transportation urged motorists to stay off the roads if possible and not drive just to view the storm and flooding.

At least seven deaths were blamed on the storm, including one man in Los Angeles who was killed when his tent was buried by a mudslide. Another man was reported killed when he was washed away in the Ojai area.

Near blizzard conditions were forecast by the National Weather Service for the mountains in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. An estimated 180 people had to be rescued near Big Bear on Saturday when they became stranded in their cars in the San Bernardino mountains, where up to 4 feet of snow fell. Some of those rescued spent more than 12 hours trapped in their vehicles.

In northern California, Napa and Marin counties north of San Francisco also were hit with storms. The storms caused flooding of roadways.

In the Sierra Nevadas near Lake Tahoe, up to 4 feet of snow fell, bringing snowfall totals there to more than 8 feet since Dec. 30. The National Weather Service predicted an additional 2 to 4 feet of snow could fall in the southern Sierra Nevada area through Monday night.

Forecasters also issued a flood watch through Sunday night for the southern Sierra Nevada area below 7000 feet from Yosemite National Park to Kings Canyon, including the foothills of Mariposa, Madera and Fresno counties.

It said the combination of melting snow below that level combined with heavy rain could result in streams and creeks overflowing their banks and flooding roadways.

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