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Archive for Sunday, January 9, 2005

Storms cause havoc

Winter weather causes road closures, flooding

January 9, 2005

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— About 180 people, including some who spent more than 12 hours stuck in deep snow in the San Bernardino Mountains, were rescued Saturday as the latest in a series of storms struck California. The storms quickly moved eastward, closing all three major highways over the Sierra Nevada.

Up to 10 feet was expected during the weekend at the Sierra's higher elevations, according to the National Weather Service.

Snow piled up 3 feet to 4 feet deep along a 15-mile stretch of highway between the Snow Valley ski resort and Big Bear dam, said Tracey Martinez, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County fire department.

Rescue crews used tracked vehicles to pick up the snowbound motorists in the mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. Many of the vehicles remained abandoned while the roads were being cleared of snow.

"People were panicking and calling 911 on their cell phones," Martinez said. "Most of them are elated to be out of there. But some continued on and said they were going skiing."

Up to 15 inches of snow were reported in parts of Colorado's San Juan Mountains, as well, adding to the 19 inches dumped earlier this week by storms. The new snow delighted skiers but made driving treacherous, with winds gusting near 60 mph on snowpacked, icy roads above 8,000 feet.

In the East, heavy rain and snow that fell earlier in the week caused flooding along the Ohio River that was chasing some residents out of their homes in communities in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Meteorologists predicted the river would reach its highest level in eight years at Louisville, Ky. The stormy weather caused widespread outages in parts of Ohio, and utilities said about 100,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity Saturday.

Some neighborhoods below California's San Bernardino Mountains recorded more than a half-inch of rain every hour, and homeowners rushed to pile sandbags.

"I used to love the rain," said Dallas Branscone of San Bernardino County's Devore area. "Now, I dread all these storms."

Elsewhere in California, up to 4 1/2 feet of snow fell overnight in the Sierra Nevada around Lake Tahoe, ski areas reported Saturday. That came on top of as much as 9 feet of snow in the Sierra and 4 feet in Reno on Dec. 30.

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