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Calif. Storm Triggers Mudslide

February 24, 1998

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The season’s most furious El Nino-powered storm began its second day of destruction early today with two tornadoes that caused minor damage and a mudslide that killed one person.

Hundreds of homes in at least five counties across the state were threatened by flooding and hillsides crumbling from a month of storms. Rock and mud slides closed many roads and highways in Southern California.

Early today, a wall of mud plowed down Laguna Beach Canyon Road in Orange County, damaging two houses and forcing the evacuation of eight others.

A body covered with mud was found outside one home in the canyon today, said police Sgt. Bob Rahaeuser. In addition, 10 people were injured, he said.

On Monday, two people were killed when a tree fell on their car in suburban Claremont.

And in the rugged, snow-covered San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, volunteers set out after dawn today to search for a small plane that disappeared Monday after taking off from Big Bear Lake en route to Palomar in San Diego County, said Civil Air Patrol Maj. Wyn Selwyn.

The storm also halted Amtrak service for thousands of passengers until at least March 2 by damaging a key train trestle in Ventura. And flooding blocked rail commuter service between Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley, northeast of the city.

Dozens of residents were evacuated Monday night from their homes southeast of Bakersfield as Caliente Creek crested with water running off the nearby southern Sierra Nevada.

``It’s a very dangerous situation,″ said Kern County sheriff’s spokeswoman Patty Chase. ``They are literally pulling people out of vehicles that are caught in flash floods.″

Almost a foot of rain has fallen so far this month in the Los Angeles area, close to the February 1884 record of 13.37 inches. San Francisco has had its wettest rainy season in more than a century, with 38.61 inches as of Monday.

The storms over the past month have caused an estimated $475 million in damage statewide and 35 of 58 counties have declared states of emergency.

The first of today’s tornadoes ripped apart several storage sheds and carport awnings in a Huntington Beach trailer park, but no one was hurt, Sgt. Guy Dove said. Debris hanging on power lines knocked out traffic signals, he said, but no homes lost power and no one was injured.

A little later, a second tornado touched down in Long Beach, knocking down trees and damaging fences along a half-mile track. Damage was minor and no injuries were reported, said police Lt. Tim Jackman.

The storm was expected to taper off tonight and leave clear weather for five to 10 days, forecasters said.

``It looks like we’re out of the really heavy stuff for a while,″ National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Klinger said.

In Northern California, a landslide above the Russian River still threatened up to 190 homes in Sonoma County.

And 500 homes remained evacuated in Lake County, 90 miles north of San Francisco, as Clear Lake rose steadily. The lake was 11.46 feet Monday night, its highest level since 1909.

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