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Triple whammy hits California, Nevada

A powerful storm swept through California and Nevada, dumping almost a foot of rain in some areas, 3 feet of snow in others and pushing mud near fire-scarred mountain hamlets.
First Storm Brings Floods to California Wildfire Areas
Flash floods in Southern California included this scene near Rancho Cucamonga.David Mcnew / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

A fierce storm swept through Southern California and Nevada, dumping almost a foot of rain in some areas, 3 feet of snow in others, and pushing mud near fire-scarred mountain hamlets.

Two climbers and a security guard were killed in the mess Wednesday.

Roadways were drenched, and two pipelines that send gasoline and jet fuel to Phoenix and Las Vegas were shut down before the storm moved southeast into Imperial County and Mexico’s Baja California on Wednesday. No more rain was expected in Los Angeles for days.

In Nevada, Reno reported snow and more than 1 inch of rain — one-eighth of its annual average — and 3 feet of snow came down on parts of the high Sierra, snarling traffic but boosting skiers’ spirits.

L.A.-Vegas route closed
Interstate 15, the main highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, was shut down for hours after at least 27 vehicles collided in dense fog in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County. No major injuries were reported.

More than 2 inches of rain fell in downtown Los Angeles, while Mount Baldy, about 40 miles east, got more than 10 inches.

Colette Smith said a man used a tree branch to save her from being swept away when a small hotel was flooded in Agua Dulce.

“He threw out a ... stick and I just grabbed on,” Colette Smith told KABC-TV. “I didn’t have time to think about what had just happened.”

Residents of 150 mobile homes were stranded overnight until a bulldozer showed up to move 3 feet of mud from a road in the Newhall area, not far from foothills that burned in a summer wildfire.

“It was a flash flood, really,” county fire Capt. Mark Savage told KABC-TV. “All the water that came from the burn area ... all that water had no place to go.”

Mudslides on highways
Floodwaters also gushed across highways carrying tons of mud in the San Bernardino Mountains, where hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land burned last fall. Falling trees near Crestline took down power lines and fell into two homes, and rushing water made roads impassable near Lytle Creek.

Two Japanese climbers were found dead in Yosemite National Park. In the Angeles National Forest, the body of a 19-year-old security guard was discovered after his truck slipped into a wash while he was on patrol.

In the central Sierra, rescuers struggled against 50 mph wind through 4-foot-deep snow as they searched for several missing hikers, including four from a Santa Cruz County winemaking family who vanished Sunday. Other hikers were stranded but not believed to be in danger, authorities said. Better conditions were expected Thursday.

A 20-inch pipeline to Phoenix shut down after a freight train derailed atop it because of the storm; a nearby 16-inch line to Las Vegas was stopped when heavy rain washed out soil around it. Houston-based pipelines operator Kinder Morgan Energy Partners had shut the lines Wednesday morning.

‘We have enough fuel’
“As long as people maintain regular consumption patterns, we have enough fuel to get us through the next week,” company spokesman Jay Thorne said Thursday. The company said, however, that shortages could occur at terminals in Las Vegas and Barstow, Calif.

The shutdowns raised concerns about potential gas shortages in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Because it has no gasoline refineries, Arizona must import all its gas; all the demand is filled by Kinder Morgan. What isn’t piped in through Southern California is delivered through another line from El Paso that goes through Tucson to Phoenix.

A spokesman for Kinder Morgan said the company aimed to reopen the pipeline by Friday.