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No End In Sight For El Niño Storms


Wind-driven rain pelted soggy California on Saturday after a brief break, renewing the threat of landslides along the northern coast and swelling rivers already flowing at the warning stage.

No major letup from the series of El Niño-powered storms was in sight.

"We expect to have a two-month continuation of this type of weather, so we're prepared to hunker down," said James Bailey, a spokesman for the state flood center.

Ten people have died in the series of storms that began last month. Preliminary damage estimates reached $300 million, but that figure was limited to 22 counties and did not include landslide damage. Since then, emergencies have been declared in a total of 31 counties, making them eligible for government aid.

U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman on Saturday announced a federal emergency grant of $25 million to help workers whose jobs have been lost or disrupted by recent floods. The money could help as many as 2,000 workers, Herman said.

The latest storm system, producing wind gusting to 40 mph and up to two inches of rain, hit the coast late Friday and headed inland, dumping a half-foot of snow in the Sierra Nevada by Saturday afternoon.

Thunderstorms and scattered rain were forecast through Sunday and state meteorologist Elizabeth Morse said a new storm was due Monday, hitting the central and southern parts of the state the hardest.

State emergency crews watched two trouble spots: minor leaks reported in levees along the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers, and the sodden hills at Rio Nido north of San Francisco, where landslides already had destroyed a half-dozen homes and forced the evacuation of 140 residents.

Throughout the San Francisco Bay area, residents had to evacuate dozens of hillside homes because of unstable soil. One house in Berkeley was ordered destroyed to prevent it from sliding onto others.

A landslide in Ventura County north of Los Angeles ruptured a natural gas pipeline and a crude oil pipeline on a hillside. Some of the oil spilled into the ocean, but authorities were not sure how much. Estimated ranged from 8,400 to 21,000 gallons.

An automatic shutoff valve stopped the flow of the natural gas line, though some of the gas escaped and exploded in a ball of fire. No one was injured, authorities said.

Police in Los Angeles kept watch over a mudslide in the city's Canoga Park section that had damaged at least five homes and sent a garage tumbling down a hillside early Friday. Five families were evacuated but no injuries were reported.

A home in Culver City was evacuated after a rain-saturated hillside collapsed and smashed into it, demolishing a large section. Firefighters later managed to stabilize the hillside, police said.

"The wall from above came crashing down. I was very fortunate. Otherwise I would have been crushed to death,"> owner Gary Nakatani said.

In San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles, four people were killed and eight injured in a head-on collision between a van and a pickup truck. The accident may have been rain-related, authorities said.

Sprawling Clear Lake, which had already flooded at least 80 homes 150 miles northeast of San Francisco, was still rising Saturday and expected to reach its highest point in more than a decade by late Monday.

The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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