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A WEEKEND WALLOP STORM: NORTHERN STATE BATTERED BEFORE RAIN MOVES INTO SOUTHLAND.

Byline: Staff and Wire Services

A slow-moving, but heavy-hitting arctic storm that toppled 100-year-old trees, flipped big rigs and cut power to nearly a million people in Northern California inched its way into the Southland on Friday.

Parts of highways from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay Area were closed because of debris blocking lanes and ferry service in San Francisco Bay was interrupted.

The powerful storm forced the state Senate and Assembly to close their offices and send employees home early, but most of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's staff remained to prepare for next week's State of the State address and the 2008-09 budget.

Shaping up to be the most destructive deluge in three years, three major storms are expected to pound the Southland with gale-force winds and up to 9 inches of rain through Monday.

Locally, the storm picked up speed Friday evening, causing spotted flooding on some streets and canyon roads.

The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning Friday evening for most of Los Angeles County, as well as Ventura County and southeast Santa Barbara County. Mud and rocks were reported on Malibu Canyon Road, where rainfall fell at up to one inch per hour.

Recent fires in Malibu and Santa Clarita have heightened concerns about destructive mudslides. At least three bulldozer crews and 240 firefighters -- available for debris removal and rescues -- will be on alert, said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Sam Padilla.

Swiftwater-rescue teams of specially trained firefighters will also be on alert throughout Los Angeles through the weekend.

In addition, about 300 Los Angeles County workers will patrol flood- control channels and roads overnight.

"We'll have about 120 crew members monitoring flood channels," said Kathy Salama of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. "On the roads, we'll have about 180 people out on patrol countywide, looking for rockfall, debris, any erosion problems."

County flood-control workers will also monitor dams, catch basins and debris basins to ensure they are channeling storm flows as they were designed to do, public works officials said.

Residents who have concerns about possible mudflows can visit the Department of Public Works' Web site, www.ladpw.org.

The first storm gathered strength off the coast Friday and gradually grew from a drizzle to a light rain by late afternoon.

"We're watching it really blossom on satellite," said National Weather Service forecaster Andrew Rorke.

About 1,500 San Fernando Valley customers lost power Friday evening as the storm picked up and wind and rain downed power lines, said Kim Hughes, a Department of Water and Power spokeswoman.

Fire crews were called to several locations in the San Fernando Valley to deal with street flooding, said d'Lisa Davies, Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman.

"Some apartment buildings are experiencing flooding (as well) due to clogged drains," Davies said. "And a lot of wires down -- a lot."

Locally, the storm was expected to dump 2 inches to 4 inches of rain overnight in the valleys, with 6 inches possible in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and up to 12 inches overnight in the south-facing mountains from Ventura County south to San Diego.

The National Weather Service advised residents of Corral Canyon in Malibu -- where dozens of homes were lost in a November fire -- to head to higher ground Friday because the area was expected to be pelted by up to an inch of rain an hour at times.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's major disaster declaration -- issued for the Southern California wildfires Oct. 24, 2007 -- has been expanded to include damage done by flooding, mudflows and debris flows directly related to the wildfires.

In the Country Club Drive area of Burbank, a remote area in a canyon, rainwater often floods the streets. As suggested by authorities, residents set up a phone tree to keep each other informed of problems.

But Doris Vick, a 50-year-resident of Country Club Drive, is not so concerned this year because there wasn't a recent fire on the area's hillsides.

"We haven't had any fire here," she said. "It will be curb-to-curb (water), that's all."

In Northern California, authorities warned truckers traveling in blizzard-like conditions over mountain passes in the Sierra Nevada to hunker down, and some ski resorts closed because of hazardous conditions.

"It's a whiteout here," said Neil Erasmus, general manager of Ice Lake Lodge and Rainbow Lodge in Soda Springs. "We're plowing and grooming, plowing and grooming to keep us from being buried in."

Forecasters said the mountains could get 10 feet of snow by the storms' end.

Winds howled in the mountain areas, gusting up to 85 mph, and in the Sacramento Valley, gusts topped 65 mph, the strongest in a decade.

The California Highway Patrol cautioned drivers and encouraged them to stay off the roads.

"A huge tree, over 100 years old, just fell across the house. It just wrecked the whole thing," said Faye Reed, whose daughter, Teenia, owns the damaged Roseville home north of Sacramento.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) A surfer rides a storm-churned wave underneath the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay. Locally, the storm was expected to dump 2 inches to 4 inches of rain overnight in the valleys, with 6 inches possible in the foothills and up to 12 in the mountains.

Ben Margot/The Associated Press

(2 -- color) Jessica Hwang and Samson Yang take a stroll with Hwang's dog, Abugi, in Westlake Village. The rain became heavier as the day went on.

Tina Burch/Staff Photographer

(3) As the storm approached the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe Basin on Friday, it caused delays on Highway 50 in Meyers. Authorities cautioned truckers against traveling in blizzard-like conditions over mountain passes. Some ski resorts in the region were forced to close.

Chad Lundquist/The Associated Press

Box:

RAIN FORECAST
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 5, 2008
Words:970
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