LOS ANGELES – A fierce storm that swept through the state, killing at least three people, pounded Southern California on Wednesday, sending mud and floodwaters gushing near fire-scarred mountain hamlets, downing trees, caving in roofs and drenching streets and highways.
The storm dumped more than 2 inches of rain in downtown Los Angeles and more than 10 inches on Mt. Baldy (search). The downpour was the strongest before dawn but eased during the day.
Overnight, pooling rain partially collapsed roofs of at least a half-dozen businesses and an apartment building in Los Angeles and Orange counties; no injuries were reported.
In central California, a tornado was spotted near the town of Dinuba, the National Weather Service (search) reported.
In the central Sierra, rescuers struggled against 50 mph winds through 4-foot-deep snow as they searched for 10 missing hikers, including a group of four who vanished Sunday and a couple who disappeared during a day hike Tuesday.
Meanwhile, two Japanese climbers were found dead in Yosemite National Park (search) after heavy snow and winds prevented a helicopter search Tuesday. A rescue team Wednesday trudged through 11 miles of driving snow and swirling winds and a helicopter crew got close enough to find the climbers dangling from a 3,200-foot sheer on El Capitan.
In Southern California, two pipelines sending gasoline and jet fuel to Phoenix and Las Vegas were shut down because of the severe weather. One pipeline was underwater, and the other was shut down when a freight train derailed on top of it; the nearby railroad tracks had been washed out.
Officials worried about gas shortages in those markets if the pipelines had to remain offline for an extended time. A spokesman for Kinder Morgan, which operates the pipelines, said it was unclear when they could be turned back on.
The first heavy rain of autumn hit particularly hard in the foothill and mountain areas.
In the Angeles National Forest, the body of a 19-year-old security guard was discovered Wednesday afternoon about a half-mile from where he was swept away after his truck slipped into a wash while he was on patrol. His identity was not immediately released.
Northeast of Los Angeles, in the foothill town of Altadena, firefighters commandeered wheelchairs to lug sandbags to keep a nursing home from being flooded.
In northern Los Angeles County, residents of 150 mobile homes in the Newhall area were stranded overnight until a bulldozer showed up to move 3 feet of mud from their access road. The area is not far from foothills that burned in a summer wildfire.
"It was a flash flood, really," county fire Capt. Mark Savage told KABC-TV. "All the water that came from the burn area ... all that water had no place to go."
In Agua Dulce, Colette Smith said a man with a tree branch saved her from being swept away when a small hotel was flooded.
"He threw out a ... stick and I just grabbed on" and managed to get out of the surging, muddy flow, Colette Smith told KABC-TV. "I didn't have time to think about what had just happened."
In the San Bernardino Mountains, where hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land burned last fall, heavy rain sent floodwaters gushing across roadways, carrying tons of mud with it. Near Crestline, falling trees took down power lines, fell into two homes and made roads hazardous. Rushing water also made roads impassable near Lytle Creek — an area not far from Waterman Canyon, where a flash flood last Christmas killed 14 people at a mountain youth camp.
Farther inland, Interstate 15, the main highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, was shut down for hours after at least 27 vehicles collided in afternoon dense fog in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County. No major injuries were reported.
In the same area, flash flooding left a field of boulders over a road, stranding several dozen homeowners in the Devore area.
Weather also was the suspected cause of the derailment of a freight train in Fontana. No injuries were reported.
Morning Metrolink commuter service from Riverside and San Bernardino to Los Angeles was halted after water covered tracks. Buses were used to ferry commuters.
Some people had to be rescued after their cars and trucks were submerged to the door handles along a flooded road in Rancho Cucamonga, where soggy ground collapsed at a mobile home park, opening up a widening sinkhole under a trailer.
Water also poured in to the top floor of the Barcelona Apartment Hotel in downtown San Diego, prompting the manager to evacuate numerous apartments.