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Fox News Weather Center

Major storm brings mudslides and flooding to southern California

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Dec. 12, 2014: Homeowner Amanda Heinlein stands on a mud landslide covering a basketball court near her house in Azusa, Calif. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Californians got a lot of what they wanted and little of what they feared from a major storm that finally blew out of the state Friday.

Up to 5 inches of desperately needed rain fell in some areas of Southern California, where several areas were hit by landslides, some areas saw minor flooding and fire officials rescued two people and pulled two bodies from rivers.

Still, with few exceptions damage across the densely populated region was minor — and the soaking was welcome in a state withered by drought before the storm exited toward the desert Southwest.

It swept down the coast with enough ferocity to trigger a landslide that besieged a row of homes with enough muck to reach their roofs. No serious injuries were reported.

Already the storm had lashed the state's north with enough of a soaking to close some schools and delay hundreds of flights Thursday, then swell several rivers past flood stage Friday.

In Southern California, up to 50,000 people lost power at one point, but overall the problems were more local. Streets flooded with bursts of up to 2 inches per hours, the morning commute was a mess of crashes and slow going — but the region was not paralyzed.

Some rejoiced. Adriana Fletcher, 39, of Huntington Beach, said her 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds were happy to see the rain after learning about the drought in school.

"When it started raining, my kids were like, 'This is so cool,'" Fletcher said.

While the rain was welcome, experts say California needs many more such storms to pull out of a drought lasting three years.

As the storm crept down the coast overnight, its powerful winds caused power outages around Santa Barbara, where the National Weather Service said up to 5 inches fell in coastal mountains. Amtrak suspended service between Los Angeles and the central coast city of San Luis Obispo.

In the Ventura County city of Camarillo, about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, rain was falling at about an inch an hour over hillsides ravaged by a 2013 wildfire. With few roots to hold the soil in place, and a waxy subsurface layer caused by heat from the flames, the deluge caused part of a hillside to give way.

Debris brushed aside concrete barriers crews had set up on the slope and surrounded about a dozen homes with silt, sticks and rocks — some as large as a couch. The force was so great that two large earthmovers used to set up barriers were swept down to the street, with one nearly buried.

"Wow, are we lucky!" said Ted Elliot, whose house was barely spared.

"We'll be the only house on the block," his wife, Rita, added.

Earthen avalanches also blocked part of the Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County.

Near downtown Los Angeles, the fire department rescued two people from the storm-swollen Los Angeles River. Orange County fire officials and Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies each pulled a body from smaller waterways, though in both cases the cause of death wasn't clear.

Even after the fast-moving storm cleared out east, the risk remained that sodden topsoil on wildfire-scarred hillsides could collapse.

A debris flow sent rocks the size of golf balls and bricks down streets in suburban Glendora east of Los Angeles, the site of the devastating Colby Fire in January. No injuries or damage to homes were immediately reported.

The threat of slides in several other inland Southern California areas led to some evacuations.

While the sun rose Friday in a dry San Francisco sky, the storm's affects lingered in Northern California.

The swollen Russian River in Guerneville reached flood stage by noon. One man used a kayak to survey an RV park where he had removed his vehicle prior to the flooding. A nearby amusement park also flooded.

In nearby Forestville, several vineyards were under water.

Authorities warned of minor flooding along the Sacramento River in Tehama County and Cache Creek in Yolo County. In a subdivision east of Red Bluff, the water from a creek spilled into a bathtub and over a bed.

Ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada were hoping for 3 feet of snow once it all settles.