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Massive storm hits California

Tue., Feb. 17, 2009

Entire state sees rain, snow; interstate highways closed

LOS ANGELES – A winter storm blanketed California with heavy rain and snow on Monday, forcing the closure of a major highway and the cancellation of the final round of a national golf tournament.

The storm stretched from the Mexican border up to Oregon and Washington and was expected to last through this afternoon, said Stan Wasowski, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in San Diego. He said rain clouds extended several hundred miles off the Pacific coast.

“This one here is hitting the entire state,” Wasowski said.

Heavy snow forced the closure of a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 5 – the region’s main north-south artery – in both directions in the mountains north of Los Angeles.

“We don’t see it opening any time soon,” said David Porter, a California Highway Patrol officer.

In Northern California, a flood advisory was issued for the San Francisco Bay Area and a flash flood watch was in effect for much of California’s central coast, where flooded greens forced the cancellation of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am’s final round.

The PGA Tour declared Dustin Johnson the winner after he built a four-shot lead on Saturday, before the rain began.

In the San Diego area, firefighters made rescues after floodwaters overtook two vehicles just before noon. No injuries were reported in either incident.

Rain brought renewed fears of mudslides in areas ravaged by wildfires last year.

Up to 7 feet of snow had fallen in the Sierra Nevada over the past week, and more was expected by early today.

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