LOS ANGELES – California took a pounding Monday from a pre-winter storm that made roads treacherous, collapsed the roof of a trade school building and forced residents from homes out of fear of mudslides from fire-stripped hillsides.
The storm was linked to the deaths of at least two people and was said to have contributed to at least one other.
Interstate 15, the main route connecting Southern California and Las Vegas, was closed by heavy snow in mountainous Cajon Pass east of Los Angeles. North of the city, heavily traveled Interstate 5 was snarled by snow that forced the California Highway Patrol to shepherd motorists over Tejon Pass. Chains or snow tires were required on all trans-Sierra highways.
In Northern California, 11,000 homes and businesses in the Grass Valley area northeast of Sacramento lost power when heavy snow brought tree limbs down on power lines. School districts in the Grass Valley area canceled classes.
About 9,000 other customers lost power in southern areas of the state, utilities reported.
Those killed in storm-related accidents included a 29-year-old CHP officer who was directing traffic around a vehicle that had crashed into a freeway barrier in Hacienda Heights before dawn on Monday. Officer Joseph Sanders was struck by another car that went out of control in the stormy weather, said CHP Officer Terry Liu.
In the San Diego area, one person was killed and another injured when an armored truck slid off a wet highway and rolled down an embankment.
The storm had moved into California from Oregon, where it snarled traffic and delayed flights out of Portland International Airport on Sunday.
In Crescent City, just south of the Oregon state line, authorities said the storm contributed to Sunday's death of a 61-year-old man who was washed off a jetty by large waves. The day before, a 47-year-old homeless woman died of exposure in the same area.
In Anaheim, students and teachers fled a trade school when the roof of a classroom building gave way Monday.
Twelve students and two staff members were hospitalized with mostly minor injuries and all but one were released by afternoon, said Lynn Porter, assistant superintendent of educational services for the North Orange County Regional Occupational Program.
"It was raining very hard at the time. A roof collapsed from the rain over one of the classrooms," Porter said.
Roughly 150 students were at the center, which prepares high school students and adults for medical occupations, said spokeswoman Pat Hansmeyer. Only three of the students were minors and they were not injured, she said.
In Yorba Linda, where 100 homes were lost to a wildfire last month, hundreds of homes in the canyon areas on the east end of town were ordered evacuated Monday morning because of the threat of mudslides. But the threat eased later in the day.
"We're getting some minor mud issues coming down but we haven't really had any very large mudslide issues," said Lt. Gregg Hayden of the Brea Police Department, which serves Yorba Linda.
The area was one of several placed under a flash-flood watch because hillsides and canyons had been stripped of vegetation by recent wildfires, increasing the chances of severe flooding and mudslides. Other areas included Los Angeles' sprawling Griffith Park, an exclusive area of Santa Barbara where nearly 200 homes were lost to fire last month, sections of Riverside and Ventura counties and part of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley where numerous homes burned.
Along the Southern California coast, a section of Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County's Sunset Beach area was closed in both directions by floodwater.
Ski areas east of Los Angeles got a big coating of snow, but travel in the rugged mountain resort region was all but impossible in many areas.
The storm was caused by an upper low pressure system that lumbered into California from the Pacific Northwest.
"It's going to be the cause for any sort of showers we will have now through Wednesday," said National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Van Horn.
At its height on Monday it triggered hundreds of fender-bender traffic accidents on freeways, highways and surface streets. "We have a lot a cars spinning out, but it's nothing serious," Officer Anthony Martin reported from the CHP's Los Angeles dispatch center.