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Blasted By West Coast Storm, Californians Grapple With Slides, Snow, Flooding

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) -- A powerful Pacific storm blew into Southern and Central California on Friday with wind-driven heavy rains, triggering rescues, calls for evacuations, toppling trees and power lines and disrupting travel and outdoor events.


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.

Numerous arriving and departing flights were delayed or canceled at the state's airports, including more than 300 alone at Los Angeles International Airport.

"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."

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.

Mudslides and flooding partially closed a section of freeway and the Pacific Coast Highway in beach areas.

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. Elsewhere in the city a tree brought down power lines as it fell on a car, and a person was hospitalized for possible electric shock, the Fire Department said.

By mid-afternoon, hundreds of trees and dozens of power lines had toppled in the Los Angeles area.

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, leaving 16 college students evacuated or unable to return home.

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

Knott's Berry Farm amusement park in Orange County closed because the weather. High surf pounded beaches.

Rain fell in some areas at rates up to three quarters of an inch per hour and wind gusts hit 55 mph in the Malibu hills, the weather service said.

Total rainfall predictions ranged from 2 inches to 6 inches on the coast and from 5 inches to 10 inches in foothills and coastal mountain.

In downtown Los Angeles, Uber driver John Kim anticipated extra business from people not wanting to walk even short distances in the rain.

"It's good for me," he said. "So much rain, I get busy."

With soil already saturated from significant rains this winter, forecasters warned of the potential for flash floods and debris flows, especially near areas left barren by wildfires.

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 11½-square-mile burn scar west of Santa Barbara.

"This is, by far, the biggest storm we've had in a long time," said Johnson, the UCSB adviser. "Might not be the best weekend to be a tourist in Santa Barbara."

Cal Poly, the state university in San Luis Obispo, was keeping an eye on an unstable hillside near a dormitory housing 275 students. A protective barrier was set up and some trees were removed, but students were told to be ready to evacuate.

Santa Anita Park near Pasadena canceled all its horse races Friday.

Pasadena canceled Saturday's annual Black History Month parade, citing public safety concerns, including possible lightning strikes.

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.

"There is more than enough room in the lake to continue accommodating incoming water and the lake level will continue to be lowered," the state Department of Water Resources said Friday.

Up the West Coast, after a week of snow and heavy rains, landslides were covering roads in Washington state. Commuter trains into Seattle were canceled Thursday due to slides, and Spokane County declared a state of emergency due to flooding and washed out roadways.

After five years of drought, California has seen a long series of storms that have filled reservoirs and loaded the Sierra Nevada with snow. Runoff from the snowpack normally supplies about a third of the state's water.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, only about 24 percent of the state remained in moderate, severe or extreme drought as of Thursday. The latter category was confined to a sliver of territory northwest of Los Angeles.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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