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Western storms leave 13 dead

©Associated Press
December 18, 2002

BEN LOMOND, Calif. -- A deadly El Nino storm that brought five straight days of rain and high winds to the Pacific Coast eased Tuesday, but more bad weather was on the way and the danger of mudslides was high.

"We're trying to scramble and get as much accomplished as possible before the next storm hits," said Deputy Kim Allyn, a spokesman for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department.

At its height, the storm left nearly 2-million Californians without power.

At least 13 deaths were blamed on the wild weather: Six died in California, two people were killed in their bed by a falling tree in Oregon, a snowboarder was killed by an avalanche at a Nevada ski resort, and four relatives died in a Utah accident.

The California victims included three women who died after their car was swept down a flooded creek Monday at Carlsbad, north of San Diego. Two other women with them were rescued.

Also, a man, woman and two of their adult sons died Monday night in northeastern Utah when their car skidded on slush-covered U.S. 40 and was struck by another vehicle, police said.

The region enjoyed a brief respite from the heaviest rains Tuesday, and the Russian and Napa rivers north of San Francisco fell below flood levels. But forecasters said another big storm was headed toward the state Thursday, centered just south of the bay area near Monterey.

Mountain dwellers in coastal Santa Cruz were warned of mudslides. In Southern California, rain caused mudslides along sections of the San Gabriel Mountains laid bare by a brush fire in September. Sludge blocked roads in some foothill towns, including La Verne and San Dimas.

The U.S. Forest Service also warned that avalanche danger remained high above 6,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada.

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