LOS ANGELES – Sunshine and rainbows alternated with thunderclaps, downpours, snow and hail on Monday as the last in a trio of storms broke up over California after flooding roads and homes and trapping people in swamped vehicles.
At least four people died, three were missing and others were rescued from raging floodwaters during the storms that added to impressive amounts of precipitation in a state that has struggled through years of withering drought.
As of Sunday night, downtown Los Angeles had recorded 14 inches of rain since the start of the water year on Oct. 1, just .77 inch less than the seasonal average, and rain continued to fall in the unstable aftermath of the storm front.
Heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada triggered an avalanche that shut down a highway just west of Lake Tahoe. Officials warned of continuing avalanche danger at all elevations of the Sierra. In northern Nevada, schools were canceled after more than a half-foot of snow fell near Reno.
Flood watches and warnings remained in place for much of Southern California, a day after nearly 4 inches of rain fell south of Los Angeles, inundating roadways, toppling trees and raising fears of damaging mudslides.
Low-elevation snow dusted rural communities just north of Los Angeles while resort communities to the east in the San Bernardino Mountains were digging out from more heavy snow. Many schools in the inland region closed for the day.
The last of the three storms brought hours of rainfall to Southern California on Sunday.
Ryan Schwarzrock, 35, and his wife, Emily Earhart, 32, were at home in Seal Beach, south of Los Angeles, when the rain began to pound. The couple watched the street that winds through their mobile home community fill with water. Then, the water crept over the concrete step leading up to their home.
"It just started seeping in," said Earhart. "We started getting towels and realized it wasn't going to do it."
The couple propped up couches on empty plastic bins and used paving stones to raise the bed off the floor. They pulled books from lower shelves and stacked them on the kitchen table. In 20 minutes, the floor was covered with 4 inches of water.
"With the drought, no one has really been thinking about rain and floods, and then it all comes," Schwarzrock said.
Other Southern Californians were able to find some fun in the floods, paddleboarding and rafting through streets. A helmeted man raced a personal watercraft through suburban Fullerton.
The National Weather Service had warned that the system could be among the strongest storms in years, and it delivered.
Long Beach Airport received 3.87 inches of rain by 5 p.m. Sunday, breaking the all-time daily record for rainfall. Los Angeles Airport got 2.78 inches, another single-day record.
Fire departments reported numerous water rescues through the weekend, many involving motorists in high water.
A search resumed Monday for an 18-year-old woman whose car plunged into a rushing creek after a collision in Alameda County southeast of San Francisco on Saturday.
A man's body was found in a swollen creek in northern San Diego County, which received more than 2.5 inches of rain.
In San Diego, two women were swept into the ocean by a large wave Saturday in Sunset Cliffs. Both were pulled from the water, but one later died at a hospital, Fire-Rescue Capt. Joe Amador said.
A motorist in the Los Angeles County city of Pomona died after losing control and smashing into a telephone pole amid heavy rains, according to police.
In Mendocino County, a massive oak toppled onto an apartment in Ukiah Saturday, crushing the building and killing a woman in her bed, fire officials told The Press Democrat newspaper of Santa Rosa.
The storm was accompanied by huge surf along the coast.
A historic WWI-era ship called the S.S. Palo Alto beached near Santa Cruz was torn apart by massive waves Saturday. It had been a landmark since it was intentionally grounded and connected to shore with a pier in 1930 in a failed venture to create a seaside entertainment destination.
Elsewhere in the West, avalanche warnings were issued for northern Utah, where heavy snow snarled traffic and led to numerous fender benders. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed a disaster declaration for Washington County due to snow accumulations. A vacant bar in Payette, Idaho, collapsed early Sunday under the weight of snow.
Associated Press writers Amy Taxin in Orange County, California, Kristin J. Bender in San Francisco and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.