LOS ANGELES – About 180 people, including some who spent more than 12 hours stuck in deep snow in the San Bernardino Mountains (search), were rescued Saturday as the latest in a series of storms struck California. The storms quickly moved eastward, closing all three major highways over the Sierra Nevada.
Up to 10 feet was expected over the weekend at the Sierra's higher elevations, according to the National Weather Service.
Snow piled up 3 to 4 feet deep along a 15-mile stretch of highway between the Snow Valley ski resort and Big Bear dam (search), said Tracey Martinez, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County fire department.
Rescue crews used tracked vehicles to pick up the snowbound motorists in the mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. Many of the vehicles remained abandoned while the roads were being cleared of snow.
"People were panicking and calling 911 on their cell phones," Martinez said. "Most of them are elated to be out of there. But some continued on and said they were going skiing."
No serious injuries were reported.
Up to 15 inches of snow were reported in parts of Colorado's San Juan Mountains (search), as well, adding to the 19 inches dumped earlier this week by storms. The new snow delighted skiers, but made driving treacherous, with winds gusting near 60 mph on snowpacked, icy roads above 8,000 feet.
In the East, heavy rain and snow that fell earlier in the week caused flooding along the Ohio River (search) that was chasing some residents out of their homes in communities in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Meteorologists predicted the river would reach its highest level in eight years at Louisville, Ky. The stormy weather had caused widespread outages in parts of Ohio, and utilities said about 100,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity on Saturday.
Some neighborhoods below California's San Bernardino Mountains recorded more than a half-inch of rain every hour, and homeowners rushed to pile sandbags.
"I used to love the rain," said Dallas Branscone of San Bernardino County's Devore area. "Now, I dread all these storms."
Elsewhere in California, up to 41/2 feet of snow fell overnight in the Sierra Nevada around Lake Tahoe, ski areas reported Saturday. That came on top of as much as 9 feet of snow in the Sierra and 4 feet in Reno on Dec. 30.
Interstate 80, which crosses the Sierra and links Sacramento, Calif., to the Reno-Tahoe, Nev., area, closed Saturday as did two other major Sierra highways — U.S. 50 over Echo Summit and Highway 88 over Carson Pass.
The storm also delayed Amtrak passengers over the Sierra for up to eight hours and caused dozens of cancellations and delays at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
The wild weather knocked out power for thousands of homes and businesses and blocked mountain roads. One person died in a sailboat smashed by wind and waves, two resort workers in the Sierra were found dead in a snow-covered car and two other people were killed in a car accident on slippery roads in Glendale.
Homeowners were especially concerned in San Bernardino County foothill towns that were devastated by wildfires and mudslides in 2003.
"You can only do so much," said Thom Master of Devore. "If 2 feet of mud comes, these little sandbags aren't going to do much."
In southern Colorado, avalanche warnings were issued Saturday for the San Juan and La Plata mountains. Slides were reported across U.S. 550 Saturday morning, but no one was trapped.
Along the Ohio River, hundreds of Ohio and West Virginia residents had evacuated their homes and stacked sandbags.
The river was nearly 4 feet above flood stage and still rising Saturday morning at Point Pleasant, W.Va., and was about 7 feet above flood stage but beginning to recede at Marietta, Ohio, the National Weather Service (search) said. Downstream, it was expected to crest Tuesday at slightly more than 5 feet above at Cincinnati, the weather service said.
Water was 2 to 4 feet deep Saturday in the streets of downtown Marietta, closing businesses.
Louisville had already closed part of its River Road and installed two of its flood gates, and the Caesars Indiana riverboat casino in Harrison County, Ind., was shut down. The expected 28-foot crest at Louisville, 5 feet over flood stage, would be the highest since March 1997.
In north-central Indiana, some 100,000 homes and businesses remained without power Saturday, three days after a paralyzing ice storm.