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El Nino Brings Death To California

The season's most furious El Nino-powered storm began its second day of destruction early Tuesday with a tornado that damaged sheds at an Orange County trailer park and a mudslide that injured 10 people nearby.

Flooding, and hillsides crumbling from a month of storms, imperiled hundreds of homes in at least five counties across the state. Two people were killed Monday when a tree crashed down on their car, and rock and mudslides closed many roads and highways in Southern California, where the storm caused the most damage.

The storm also halted Amtrak service for thousands of passengers until at least March 2 by damaging a key train trestle in Ventura. Flooding also forced rail commuter service to be suspended between Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley, northeast of the city.

Dozens of residents were evacuated Monday night from their homes southeast of Bakersfield as Caliente Creek crested and runoff continued to percolate from the nearby southern Sierra Nevada.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Kern County sheriff's spokeswoman Patty Chase said. "They are literally pulling people out of vehicles that are caught in flash floods."

Almost a foot of rain has fallen so far this month in the Los Angeles area, close to the February record of 13.37 inches, set in 1884. San Francisco has had its wettest rainy season in more than a century, with 38.61 inches as of Monday.

A month of storms have caused an estimated $475 million in damage statewide this season and prompted 35 of 58 counties to declare states of emergency.

The tornado ripped apart several storage sheds and carport awnings in a Huntington Beach trailer park early Tuesday, but no one was hurt, Sgt. Guy Dove said. Debris hanging off power lines knocked out traffic signals, he said, but no homes lost power, and no one was injured.

Details on the mudslide in Laguna Beach weren't immediately available, but 10 people were injured, including two who were hospitalized in stable condition. Two homes were also damaged.

The storm was expected to taper off Tuesday night and leave clear weather for five to 10 days, forecasters said.

"It looks like we're out of the really heavy stuff for a while," National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Klinger said.

In Northern California, geologists continued to watch a landslide above the Russian River that threatens up to 190 homes in Sonoma County.

And 500 homes remained evacuated in Lake County, 90 miles north of San Francisco, as Clear Lake rose steadily. The lake was 11.46 feet Monday night, its highest level since 1909.

Written by Oscar Musibay ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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