Avalanches Claim Three Lives In Calif.

San Bernardino County paramedics and emergency personnel transport an avalanche victim into an ambulance Friday Jan. 25, 2008 in Wrightwood, Calif. The victim, a 23-year-old employee with the Mountain High ski area's ski patrol in the San Gabriel Mountains, was skiing with friends when the avalanche occurred.(AP Photo/Victor Valley Daily Press, Veronica Hill) ** MANDATORY CREDIT SAN BERNARDINO SUN OUT** AP/Hill, Victor Valley Daily Press

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy said a third body has been found in an avalanche area, although one person missing since yesterday is safe.

Three people have died in a series of avalanches in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, authorities said Saturday, while Southern California braced for more powerful storms that have pounded the area with heavy snow and rain.

Three avalanches swept backcountry slopes in the San Gabriel Mountains on Friday, killing two skiers. One snowboarder was found safe on Saturday as an air and ground search was underway, but early this afternoon police reported a third body had been found.

Angeles National Forest spokesman Stanton Florea said an avalanche advisory was issued for the ski area at nearby Mount Baldy, a 10,000-foot peak about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, and the lifts were closed.

Elsewhere, residents of four Orange County canyons scarred by wildfires last fall were urged to follow a voluntary evacuation order because of possible mudslides and flash floods. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the county between midnight Saturday through Sunday morning.

Meteorologist Richard Thompson said up to 8 inches of rain would fall in the hills outside Los Angeles starting Saturday evening and area ski resorts could get as much as 3 feet of powder.

"There's going to be very significant impacts," Thompson said. "Debris and mud-flows will be a great concern."

Several storms have deluged Southern California since Monday. Some areas have received more moisture in that time than during the entire rainy season last year.

In Los Angeles, a Metrolink train on a morning commute into the city Friday hit a slide of mud and rocks on the tracks. The stranded train was pulled free by another train and 2,000 passengers were delayed by 2½ hours, Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said.

The first of Friday's avalanches killed Michael McKay, 23, of Wrightwood, who was an off-duty ski patroller from the Mountain High resort.

Rescuers pulled Darren Coffee from a second avalanche late Friday. He was declared dead at a nearby hospital a few hours later, Los Angeles sheriff's Deputy Cory Kennedy said. The cause of death was not immediately known, nor were Coffee's age and hometown.

The snowboarder, who was not immediately identified, apparently spent the night in the Wrightwood area.

"He walked out" Saturday morning and was in good condition, Los Angeles County sheriff's dispatcher Tracy Meritt said.

Steady rain soaked much of Northern California as well.

Rain caused delays of up to two hours Friday morning at San Francisco International Airport, and officials expected such delays to continue throughout the day.

Residents in the Marin County towns of San Anselmo and Fairfax are were asked to leave their homes and businesses because of flooding from a nearby creek.
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