Norbert weakens to tropical storm off Mexico; causes flooding in Southern California

A fading Tropical Storm Norbert swirled off Mexico's Baja California peninsula and forecasters said it should become a tropical depression on Monday.

But the weakened storm was expected to bring more rains to the Baja desert and to the U.S. Southwest as it curled back toward land in the coming days.

On Sunday, thunderstorms pushed by Norbert brought rain to inland parts of Southern California, flooding streets and freeway lanes that left dozens of cars stuck in the knee-deep water.

The National Weather Service said the storm dropped as much as nearly 3 inches of rain in Hemet and 2 inches of rain in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County, California.

The California Highway Patrol reported flooding along almost all inland freeways, stranding dozens of cars and forcing lane closures.

About 70 vehicles got stranded when water came over the guardrail along Highway 74 in the San Jacinto Mountains community of Mountain Center, California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said.

Isolated thunderstorms were expected to continue on Monday, with the potential for flash floods in valley, mountain and desert areas, said Cynthia Palmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.

She said Norbert was helping push moisture from the remnants of Tropical Storm Dolly across northern Mexico and into the southwestern United States.

Earlier, a powerful Hurricane Norbert pounded fishing villages and resorts on Baja California's western coast though it never made landfall.

Authorities said high surf and waves broke a contention wall and flooded the fishing village of Puerto San Carlos, damaging 1,250 houses and forcing hundreds to flee to shelters. At least 2,000 people were evacuated from Los Cabos, La Paz and Comondu.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said late Sunday night that Norbert had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) and would become a tropical depression on Monday. Norbert was centered about 180 miles (285 kilometers) southwest of Punta Eugenia, Mexico and was heading northwest at 7 mph (11 kph).