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New snow, rain add to California’s miseries

2 more storms expected to lash state this weekend

SHARE New snow, rain add to California’s miseries
Jude Dunes climbs into a friend's car to help move it from a flooded area along the frontage road off Highway 101 Friday in Mill Valley, Calif. North Bay side streets and freeway on and off ramps in Marin County were closed intermittently because of heavy

Jude Dunes climbs into a friend’s car to help move it from a flooded area along the frontage road off Highway 101 Friday in Mill Valley, Calif. North Bay side streets and freeway on and off ramps in Marin County were closed intermittently because of heavy water accumulation from the latest storm.

Frederic Larson, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Another winter storm battered California on Friday with heavy snow that closed major mountain roads, lashed the coast with waves that killed a boater and dumped more rain on saturated slopes.

Bulldozer crews built sand berms on beaches to protect against high tides, and fire-scarred foothill towns kept watch against mudslides. An avalanche advisory was issued for portions of the eastern Sierra Nevada. Snow was reported in Death Valley.

The storm was the first of three expected to hit California through the weekend. Downtown Los Angeles could get up to 5 inches of rain by Monday night, with 10 inches to 15 inches in the mountains, the National Weather Service said. A winter storm also battered the Pacific Northwest.

One person died and a second was rescued after a 34-foot sailboat was caught in heavy seas and 50-knot winds 11 miles southwest of the central California coast town of Cambria.

In the Eastern Sierra, Mono County authorities were investigating the deaths of two Mammoth Lakes resort workers who were found in their snow-covered car Thursday morning after a night of freezing weather. They apparently started the car for heat, the Sheriff's Department said.

The department also issued an avalanche advisory for the area. On Wednesday, a snowboarder was caught in an avalanche that pushed him 1,000 feet and partially buried him, but he survived.

Flash-flood warnings were issued for some of the areas burned bare in the fall 2003 wildfires. In communities below the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, residents waited to see if they should evacuate. A storm last week unleashed heavy debris flows in the area.

Several hundred residents of Devore hoped sandbags and concrete barriers would turn away floodwaters, but the waiting still made for sleepless nights.

The governor's Office of Emergency Services activated its operations centers in Sacramento and Orange County. They were to be staffed around the clock through Sunday to provide coordinated action if expected weekend storms brought disaster.

"We're getting a lot of heavy snow and rain along the Eastern Sierras, even have snow reported in Death Valley at the 3,000-foot level. We're just really getting hit," spokesman Eric Lamoureux said.

Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles was closed for a time because of snow and ice. The heavily traveled north-south route has been open only sporadically since a series of storms began descending on the region Dec. 27. Drivers also were urged to use chains and caution on roads leading to Nevada, including Interstate 80 and U.S. 50 — two major arteries from Sacramento to Reno and Lake Tahoe.

Some routes leading from Southern California north to ski resorts in the Mammoth Lakes area of the Eastern Sierra were pounded with snow.

"They're expecting about 7 feet of snow in Mammoth," California Highway Patrol officer Jennifer Steel said. "We're just advising people to stay home."

The storm also clobbered northern Nevada, dumping heavy snow that closed schools and government offices. It even brought a rare snowfall to the Las Vegas Strip, with some parts of the gambling capital reporting up to 2 inches.

Chains or snow tires were required along a 300 mile stretch of Interstate 80 — the main east-west route across the state — from Baxter, Calif., to east of Elko near the Utah line.

A winter storm warning remained in effect all along the Sierra and northern Nevada through Monday. The National Weather Service predicted up to 8 feet of snow for the Lake Tahoe region, and 2 feet in the valleys of western Nevada, including the Reno-Carson City area.

Forecasters said the brunt of the storm would likely hit Friday night or Saturday. Winds were forecast to pick up late Friday, causing snow drifts up to 3 feet in the Reno area, the weather service said. One gust approaching 100 mph was recorded over the Sierra crest at midday.

Snow also fell on much of Eastern Washington, where that is common, and near Seattle, where it is not.

Six inches of snow was measured at Spokane International Airport at noon Friday, with another 5 to 6 inches expected in the valleys. In Western Washington, areas north of Seattle anticipated additional snowfall and icy winds after commutes were snarled Thursday and Friday. As much as 4 inches of snow fell, with another inch expected through Saturday morning in lowland areas from Everett north.