California weathers another day of powerful winter storm

LOS ANGELES - A powerful, plodding storm drenched Southern California with another consecutive day of heavy rain Sunday, turning roadways into rivers, knocking out power to thousands of homes and setting off mudslides and flooding that shut down highways.

The latest round of bad weather increased the number of storm-related weekend deaths to at least seven and forecasters predicted more rain on the way Monday and Tuesday.

On the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, a man was killed and four people were injured early Sunday after their vehicle skidded on water or mud, hit a telephone pole and ended up in the surf. In the Elysian Park area, a 43-year-old homeless man died after the hillside on which he had pitched his tent gave way, burying him under a concrete-like mound of mud and rock. Another man was injured in the landslide.

A two-story home collapsed in the Studio City area above the San Fernando Valley, and a 33-year-old man and his two children were pulled from the rubble with minor injuries.

While only scattered showers were forecast for San Francisco, Los Angeles and its surrounding counties were soaked again, and the rain was not expected to retreat until midweek. Some minor tidal flooding was reported in along San Francisco Bay and coastal towns, put police said the water receded by late Sunday morning.

The National Weather Service said downtown Los Angeles was pelted with 4 inches of rain since Friday, an amount that nearly exceeded the average total expected over six months, between July and Sunday.

"We've had almost continuous rain for 60 hours, and it's going to continue for a day or two. I don't see any break until Monday or Tuesday," said forecaster Bruce Rockwell.

The storm is "stationary, it's strong and it's brought up a lot of moisture from the tropics. It's almost a continuous plume of water," Rockwell said.

The heavy rainfall is being attributed to a sluggish, low-pressure system that collided with a stream of moisture from the southern Pacific known as a "Pineapple Express."

Annual rainfall for the city, measured from July 1 to June 30, averages about 15 inches a year. But the tally since July has already exceeded 18 inches - with more rain on the way.

Since the wet weather arrived Thursday, it has been blamed for at least five deaths earlier in the weekend.

Four-year-old Ingrid Paredes was killed Friday in Chula Vista when the car her father drove slid off the rain-slicked Interstate 805. The body of an unidentified man was pulled out of the swollen Tijuana River on Saturday; he is believed to have been with a group of illegal border crossers.

On Saturday, two people died in a car accident along a slippery freeway in Los Angeles County, and a man was washed away by a swollen river near Ventura County's Ojai area.

The same storm is dumping heavy snow across the Sierra Nevada, which stranded an Amtrak train, shut down the Reno, Nev., airport for the second time in a week and halted motorists over the mountains. Winter storm warnings were in effect with as much as 5 feet of new snow possible by Tuesday morning on top of Saturday's accumulations of up to 4.5 feet.

As many as 12,000 customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were without power Sunday morning. Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman David Eisenhauer said 11,000 customers remained without power, scattered through its service area. Southern California Edison, which has 4.6 million customers in a 50,000-square-mile service area in five counties, reported only minor power outages.

In Southern California, authorities reported scores of traffic crashes and ordered scattered road closings, including the southbound side of Interstate 5, where it intersects with the Pasadena Freeway, because of a mudslide.

A mobile home park was evacuated in Santa Clarita after a nearby creek flooded its banks and overwhelmed an 8-foot-tall retaining wall. Flash flood warnings were issued throughout the region, and authorities kept close eye on foothill neighborhoods below the San Bernardino Mountains where slopes charred bare by wildfires were especially prone to mudslides.

Several Los Angeles-area radio stations were knocked off the air for hours Sunday after trouble with transmitters on Mount Wilson, which was assumed to be related to the stormy weather.

In Arcadia, Santa Anita race track canceled eight of nine scheduled horse races due to heavy rain - the first time the track has done so in 10 years, managers said.

A relatively dry Sunday was forecast for the San Francisco Bay area, but another major front was expected to push through the area late Monday, bringing more heavy rain and snow to higher elevations.

Downtown San Francisco already has received 169 percent of its normal rainfall since July 1, with 15.52 inches as of Saturday, compared with a 30-year average of 9.18 inches.


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