California storm closes roads; more dark skies ahead

| 12/18/2002

The California coastline, just battered by a severe storm that closed major highways, cut power and disrupted most activity, is bracing for round two, according to media reports.

Over the weekend, a new storm is expected to dump substantial amounts of rain, as well as heavy winds and snow in the mountains in the region, reported Dec. 17. Northern Californians could be facing wind gusts of more than 80 mph that will reach into Washington state.

The Los Angeles Times reported the northern part of the state - which has suffered storms since Thursday, Dec. 12 - was hardest hit. Wind gusts there have topped 100 mph. North Coast beaches have been hit by waves that topped 25 feet in height, and flood warnings were issued for the Napa and Russian rivers.

But the storms have wreaked havoc to the south as well. The earlier storm dropped 2 inches of rain in Los Angeles, which was hit by the storm after it passed over the northern part of the state, The Times reported. Thousands of power lines are down, flooding has affected areas across the state and part of I-5 was closed down.

More than 160 accidents in Los Angeles County and 80 in the adjoining region are blamed on the storms, the California Highway Patrol told The Times. Parts of the Riverside Freeway were closed at one point, and floods hampered traffic on the Santa Ana Freeway in Commerce.

The California Department of Transportation's Web site reported that as of 8:45 a.m. PST Dec. 17, no roads were closed in the state.

The storms are expected to continue through Jan. 1. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the El Nino effect, which is caused by warmer than normal waters in the Pacific, is fueling the storms. The band of warmer water runs across the ocean from the international dateline to the coast of South America, covering an area twice the size of the U.S. mainland.