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2 Dead as Storm Lashes Southern Calif. 02/18 09:18

   LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A powerful Pacific storm blew into Southern and Central 
California on Friday with wind-driven heavy rains that downed power lines and 
electrocuted a man, killed a motorist in a submerged car and disrupted hundreds 
of flights at airports.

   With the storm feeding on an atmospheric river of moisture stretching far 
out into the Pacific, precautionary evacuations of homes in some neighborhoods 
were requested due to the potential for mudslides and debris flows.

   More than 300 arriving and departing flights were delayed or canceled at Los 
Angeles International Airport.

   In the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles, a falling tree downed power lines 
and hit a car. A 55-year-old man was electrocuted and pronounced dead at a 
hospital, police and fire officials said.

   Later in the same neighborhood, a sinkhole swallowed two cars, the second on 
live TV as viewers watched it teeter on the edge before plunging in. 
Firefighters rescued one person from the first car, and the driver got out of 
the second before it fell. No one was injured.

   Winds gusting to 70 mph or more lashed parts of the region. Heavy rains 
turned creeks and rivers into brown torrents and released slews of mud from 
hillsides burned barren by wildfires. Several stretches of freeways and 
highways were closed by flooding.

   "It's crazy," said Robin Johnson, an academic adviser at the University of 
California, Santa Barbara. "It's just pouring down rain. The wind is just going 
nuts."

   "At one point the wind was so strong I'm surprised it didn't blow my windows 
out," retiree Phoenix Hocking said in a Facebook message from Carpinteria. "I 
now have a pond in my patio. And my dog is starting to grow flippers so he can 
go out and do his business."

   In the desert town of Victorville, several cars were washed down a flooded 
street. A helicopter rescued one person from the roof of a car but another 
motorist was found dead in a submerged vehicle, San Bernardino County fire 
spokesman Eric Sherwin said.

   Elsewhere in the county, a 20-mile stretch of State Route 138 in the West 
Cajon Valley was closed at the scene of a summer wildfire.

   Mud sloshed over concrete rail barriers and about two dozen vehicles, 
including big-rigs and a school bus, were either mired in mud or became unable 
to turn around on the closed road and some were abandoned, Sherwin said.

   Two people in a car were rescued and four students on the bus were removed 
and taken to a school office, he said.

   Another road in the area was covered with 2 feet of mud.

   In LA's Sun Valley, 10 cars were trapped in swift-moving water on a roadway 
and 15 people had to be rescued, the Fire Department reported.

   Using ropes and inflatable boats, firefighters rescued seven people and two 
dogs from the Sepulveda basin, a recreation and flood-control area along the 
Los Angeles River. One person was taken to a hospital with a non-life 
threatening injury.

   The storm took aim at Southern California but also spread precipitation 
north into the San Joaquin Valley and up to San Francisco. It was not expected 
to bring significant rain in the far north where damage to spillways of the 
Lake Oroville dam forced evacuation of 188,000 people last weekend.

   The National Weather Service said it could end up being the strongest storm 
to hit Southern California since January 1995.

   Rain and wind wiped out play in golf's Genesis Open at the Riviera Country 
Club in Los Angeles, where a eucalyptus tree cracked.

   Hundreds of trees and dozens of power lines had toppled in the Los Angeles 
area and at one point more than 60,000 city power customers were without 
electricity.

   A 75-foot tree fell onto an apartment building near the University of 
California, Los Angeles, narrowly missing someone who was in bed, fire 
officials said. Four of the six apartments have been declared unsafe to enter, 
prompting the evacuation of 16 college students.

   "I was just sitting in bed trying to enjoy a Friday morning of no class," 
one resident told KCAL-TV. "I had a giant, like, thunder popping sound and then 
next thing I knew a branch was coming through the ceiling."

   Her leg was scratched by debris and "I was covered in sawdust," she said.

   Her thought now was, "Where am I going to live?"

   Another tree smashed a carport and vehicles in the Santa Barbara suburb of 
Goleta.

   By evening, Ventura County and northern Los Angeles County had seen 24-hour 
rain totals of up to 7  inches, with the San Marcos mountain pass in Santa 
Barbara County receiving nearly 8  inches.

   Farther south, downtown Los Angeles had received about 1  inches of rain 
while some areas saw up to 4 inches.

   The storm system was moving "very slowly" eastward and Los Angeles County 
was expected to see more rain through Saturday, said Joe Sirard, a 
meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

   The city of Duarte, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains east of 
Los Angeles, ordered evacuation of 180 homes below a burn scar. Up the coast, 
evacuations were urged for parts of Camarillo Springs in Ventura County and 
around an 11-square-mile burn scar west of Santa Barbara.

   In Northern California, officials monitoring the stricken Oroville Dam on 
the Feather River said they were confident the reservoir would handle any 
runoff from expected storms because ongoing releases have been lowering the 
lake's level since its spillways were damaged last week.


(KA)

 
 
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