March 21, 2011 in Nation/World

Storm dumps snow, rain on L.A.

John Rogers Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – A storm bearing rain for the Los Angeles area and heavy snow for the mountains marked the first day of spring with a bang Sunday, illuminating the sky along the California coast with frequent lightning and forcing the evacuations of 12 homes under threat of mudslides.

Rain caused rock slides in Malibu and closed parts of the Pacific Coast Highway, while mud and debris threatened a retaining wall and forced the evacuation of 30 people in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Diana Igawa said.

The National Weather Service said Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley received at least 3 inches of rain – its average rainfall for the month of March – which led to closure of several streets. More than 1.5 inches pelted coastal cities and more than 2 inches fell on Hollywood, the service said.

Strong wind downed trees that damaged homes and broke windows in the valley, downtown Los Angeles and throughout the region.

The mountains were expected to get as much as 3 feet of snow at the higher elevations, making this an unusually strong storm for this time of year, said Stuart Seto of the weather service.

“Old Man Winter, I guess, wanted to take one more bite out of us before leaving,” he said.

Thousands of runners in the Los Angeles Marathon faced pouring rain and lightning strikes, one of which illuminated the downtown skyline just as the race started. In Ventura County and Santa Barbara County, torrential rain brought flash-flood warnings. Rain on a flooded street in Oxnard stranded several cars and swept away another, the weather service said. No injuries were reported.

More than 10 inches of rain fell in the Lake Cachuma area, forcing the release of water from Bradbury Dam, Santa Barbara County spokesman David Flamm said. The release was helping the lake level off, but heavy flow in the Santa Ynez River had officials warning Lompoc Valley residents that they might need to evacuate, he said.

Flood warnings also were issued for Los Angeles-area hillside communities burned by wildfires in recent years.

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