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Storm forces evacuations in Arizona

A strong storm lashed parts of Arizona with heavy rain on Saturday, forcing authorities to close portions of four highways because of rock slides and flooding and driving dozens of people from threatened homes.

Some 40 residents of two mobile home parks in Punkin Center, about 80 miles northeast of Phoenix, were evacuated because of rising water from Tonto Creek. People living east of the creek were stranded by flooding at low water crossings.

Some precautionary evacuations were ordered in at least three other communities for residents living near rivers.

Authorities blocked portions of four state highways near Globe because of rock slides and flooding. It was not clear when the roads would reopen.

Heavy rain and melting snow caused many rivers and streams to swell to near flood levels on Friday, but most peaked and started to decline by Saturday, said Judy Kioski, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management.

California also battered
Rain and winds gusting up to nearly 70 mph triggered flooding and dozens of wrecks Southern California on Friday. At least three people died.

The eastern edge of the storm also pounded southern Utah. Flash-flood warnings were issued in the same area of Utah where a river jumped its banks and washed away dozens of homes a month ago.

The storm system that moved into Southern California late Thursday dumped from an inch of rain on the coast to more than 3 inches in some mountain areas; rain was expected to continue through early Saturday. Wind gusts up to 69 mph were recorded.

The California Highway Patrol said 380 accidents were reported in the area between midnight and 9 a.m. Friday, compared to 104 during the same period the previous Friday.

A 26-year-old patient died when a van used to transport people with disabilities rolled over on a freeway; two other people died in crashes in Glendale and San Diego.

Perilous rescues
Crews made a helicopter rescue in Santa Clarita when a trucker lost control of his big-rig on a highway and landed in a rain-swollen creek. The driver was airlifted to a hospital after spending about two hours on top of his truck.

Also, a boy who had clung to the side of a 40-foot-high concrete channel was rescued from the Los Angeles River on Friday afternoon. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation. A second boy managed to escape on his own.

It was the region’s first significant rainfall since five days of torrential storms last month killed at least 28 people.