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Another Winter Storm Slams Southern California

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A new winter storm packing rain, snow and powerful winds moved into Southern California Wednesday, but there were no early reports of damage in areas at risk of mudslides.

CBS 2 Chief Meteorologist Josh Rubenstein said most of the moisture is expected to clear out in the early afternoon, but more rain can be expected this weekend.

Authorities are keeping a wary eye on areas such as Highland in San Bernardino County, where homes were inundated with mud last week.

Wednesday’s fast-moving storm reached the area at around 3 a.m. after hitting Northern California on Tuesday night. Wind, gale and flood warnings were up through the morning from Fresno County south.

The cold northern storm was expected to dump up to an inch of rain in four to five hours, followed by winds gusting to 75 mph in mountains and passes.

The National Weather Service warned that blowing snow and ice could make driving treacherous in the Grapevine area of Interstate 5, the rain highway between Southern and Central California.

The rain and strong winds moved into the San Francisco Bay area during the Tuesday evening commute and caused arrival delays of more than two hours at San Francisco International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration reported.

The storm was fueled by subtropical moisture from the north of Hawaii, combined with low pressure over the Northeast Pacific. The previous storms were fed by a similar plume, but it originated from south of the Hawaiian Islands and rained most heavily in the southern half of the state.

In Highland, shovel-toting volunteers took advantage of sunny weather Tuesday to clear mud from around dozens of homes.

About 700 volunteers from Highland and neighboring cities turned out, meeting at a Baptist church where they were assigned to teams and bused to properties, said Bill Peters, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“It was an awesome response,” Peters said.

Some 100,000 sandbags were placed to protect the community in case of a repeat of the mud flow that belched from local mountains, overwhelmed a drain channel and surrounded or inundated homes with mud several feet deep.

The sandbag walls were built up to the height of that flow.

“We’re pretty positive we can handle up to what happened last week,” Peters said.

About 50 homes remain evacuated.

The California Department of Transportation, meanwhile, worked on extensive storm damage to routes in the inland counties east of Los Angeles.

Among the worst damage sites was a section of State Route 330 that slid down a mountain, leaving a huge gap in the road that leads to resorts at Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. There was no estimate of how long it would take to restore the route, Caltrans said.

City officials in Laguna Beach said last week’s flooding and mud flows caused more than $10 million in damage to public and private property, the Orange County Register reported.

The storm was expected to renew the potential for debris flows and mudslides in areas denuded by wildfires, including the San Gabriel Mountains above Los Angeles’ foothill suburbs. Those communities escaped trouble last week as flood control basins captured debris.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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