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Calif. Braces for More Rain; Storms Hit West

A slow-rolling series of storms that battered the West this week brought snowfall and high wind Thursday to parts of California, where weather-weary residents have already endured lashing rain, heavy snowfall and a destructive tornado (search).

Since the wild weather began slogging ashore Monday, five deaths in California and two in Colorado have been blamed on storms. Searchers on Thursday recovered what they believed were the bodies of two missing college students who had vanished after their canoe capsized in a flooded Arizona creek.

Up to a foot of snow fell on Colorado mountains, and northern Nevada was expecting as much as 6 feet on top of the 3-4 feet that already had fallen.

In Arizona, residents of Sedona (search) — a tourist community known for its stunning red rock formations — began cleaning up after a heavy storm bloated a creek from a trickling stream to a rushing river of mud. Residents in an area including three resorts, an RV and mobile home park, and 40 homes had been urged to evacuate after the flooding Wednesday.

California has taken the brunt of the Pacific barrage, first in Southern California then in the north.

Heavy rain, wind and blizzard conditions struck Northern California early Thursday, snarling traffic, cutting power to thousands in the San Francisco Bay Area, while temporarily closing major routes across the Sierra Nevada (search).

Forecasters expect the area to receive several more storms over the next few days that will continue to make travel difficult.

"They've got blizzard conditions up there right now and there's no reason to think anything is going to get any better tonight," California Highway Patrol spokesman Steve Kohler said of the shutdown of Highway 80 in the Sierras.

Inland, a winter storm warning was posted around Lake Tahoe on the Northern California-Nevada line. A combination of heavy snow and wind gusting to 100 mph pummeled the area.

In Southern California, two days of downpours have brought up to 12 inches of rain and scores of highway accidents.

As the storm moved east, three Colorado highways were closed, one from accidents and two by avalanches.

The two storm victims in Colorado died when their pickup truck hit a jackknifed trailer Wednesday night. The victims, Tom Thorne and Beth Williams, were a husband-and-wife team of wildlife veterinarians who were nationally prominent experts on chronic wasting disease and brucellosis.

Elsewhere, freezing rain put an icy layer on roads in the northern Plains early Thursday, sending vehicles into ditches.

"At 7:30 this morning, the entire town was a sheet of ice," said Dennis Walaker, public works director in Fargo, N.D.