Latest powerful storm bears down on California

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The latest in a series of powerful storm systems is bearing down on California, pelting mountain areas with heavy rain, snow and high winds, prompting evacuations and leaving thousands without power.

Virtually the entire state has been affected by the storms that began Friday, dumping moisture from far Northern California south to San Diego. More than 12 inches of rain have fallen in parts of the Santa Monica Mountains in the south and 13 feet of snow has accumulated at Mammoth Mountain ski resort.

Downtown Los Angeles had received 5 1/4 inches of rain since Friday morning, more than a third of the average annual precipitation.

In the Wrightwood area, about 15 people were evacuated Monday night after the Sheep Creek Wash overflowed and threatened homes, the San Bernardino County Fire Department told the Los Angeles Times. At least three homes sustained water damage.

Also in San Bernardino County, a woman was rescued from her pickup truck Monday night after being swept away in rain-swollen Lytle Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The woman called for help on her cellphone as water rose inside her cab up to the dashboard, San Bernardino County fire spokeswoman Tracey Martinez told the Los Angeles Times.

After a four-hour ordeal, Martinez said the woman was pulled to safety and taken to a hospital in good condition.

Flooding also was reported in Trabuco Canyon in Orange County.

Nearly 21,000 Southern California Edison customers were without power late Monday due to the storm, said Edison spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady. The hardest-hit area was the city of Torrance, south of Los Angeles, with more than 4,600 outages. She said crews would be working throughout the night to restore service.

Unaccustomed to driving and dressing for so much rain, Southern California residents tried to go about their business — creeping on the freeways, dodging puddles downtown and doing last minute holiday shopping.

At a grocery store in La Canada Flintridge, Justin Buck trotted back and forth across the parking lot, collecting shopping carts in a clear plastic rain slicker.

“I dreaded coming to work today,” the 31-year-old said. “This coat isn’t keeping me dry either. The water runs off my back, down onto my legs and drips into my boots. It’s not that cold actually. You just get tired of being wet all the time.”

While adults grumbled, children didn’t seem to mind the rain. Grade-schoolers in rubber boots splashed in the downspouts and pre-teens pretended to be too cool for rain gear.

“I love the rain because we get to stay in during gym class and watch movies. And at lunchtime, the kids run outside and come back all soaked and try to hug you,” said 12-year-old Amy Becerra said as she bounced up and down and giggled.

Her mother, Nancy, who was struggling with an umbrella, disagreed. She complained that the constant rain was “depressing,” kept her inside all weekend and made driving scary.

About 40 residents of the San Joaquin Valley farming community of McFarland were briefly evacuated Monday morning.

Gary Farrell, general manager of the McFarland Parks and Recreation District, said Santa Fe Railroad crews kept Poso Creek free of debris so it wouldn’t overflow.

Resident Cristian Abundis, who lives on a street where water ran a foot deep, returned from an evacuation center and quickly started filling sand bags.

“We just want to be prepared,” he said, dropping the bags around his doors and driveway.

Elsewhere, a small twin-engine airplane was reported missing on a 65-mile flight from Palm Springs to Chino. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor says a wreckage was found near Lake Perris but investigators won’t be certain that it’s the missing plane until they can get to the scene on Tuesday, if weather permits.

Residents of La Canada Flintridge were among those keeping a wary eye on the rain after a 250-square-mile wildfire last year denuded a large swath of the San Gabriel Mountains. More than 40 homes in the foothils just north of Los Angeles were damaged or destroyed by a mudslide in February.

Elsewhere, a 20-mile stretch of scenic Pacific Coast Highway between Malibu and Oxnard was closed after a rock and mudslide Sunday night. The California Highway Patrol said no one was hurt. The same highway also was closed for a time in Orange County by a mudslide at Dana Point.

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Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus in Santa Ana, Terence Chea and Jason Dearen in San Francisco, Garance Burke in Fresno and Sue Manning in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Jeff Nachtigal reported for the AP from McFarland.

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