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Rain, snow, cold hit Southern California* (Updated)

December 15, 2008 |  9:08 am


More photos from the Southern California storm.

Updated at 12:50 p.m.

Rain and snow battered Southern California this morning, triggering evacuation orders in Orange County burn areas, collapsing the roof of an adult education center in Anhaeim and causing two fatal traffic accidents, including one involving a Californiia Highway Patrol officer on the Pomona Freeway.

This afternoon, one person died and four were hurt in an accident on the 10 Freeway east near Overland Avenue, jamming traffic in the area.

In Anaheim, 13 people were taken to local hospitals when heavy rain caused the roof to collapse at an adult school this morning while students were inside, authorities said.

One of four main drains for the 20,000 square foot Orange County Regional Occupation Program building was not working, which caused water to accumulate on top of the roof and weigh it down, said Maria Sabol, spokeswoman for the Anaheim Fire Department.

One woman was trapped under roof debris and had to be extricated, Sabol said. Other victims, whose ages range from 17 to 50, reported back injuries, difficulty breathing, sore shoulders and wrists and anxiety, she said.

Building inspectors say the building is in danger of collapsing and have prohibited anyone from going inside, she said.

In Hacienda Heights, a CHP officer was responding to a rain-related single car crash on the eastbound Pomona Freeway about 4:30 a.m. when he was killed, authorities said. The officer was laying down flares at the scene when two other vehicles crashed, skidded out of control and hit the officer.

The 29-year-old officer, who was not immediately identified, was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries, authorities said. The easbound lanes of the freeway remain closed.

In east San Diego, one person was killed and another injured when an armored truck flipped over and rolled down an embankment on a transition road between Highway 94 and Interstate 15, authorities said.

The crash is believed to be rain related. Flash flood warnings were issued in those areas of the San Fernando Valley, Griffith Park and Santa Barbara County charred in last month’s wild fires, according to the National Weather Service.

In Orange County, mandatory evacuation orders were issued about 7:45 a.m. for burn areas around Yorba Linda. No major mudslides were reported.

Fire Capt. Greg McKeown, of the Orange County Fire Authority, said officials are monitoring the hillsides for any movement.

“The more saturated these hillsides become, the more likely a mudslide or debris flow is,” he said, as he stood at the end of a cul-de-sac looking at fire-scorched hillsides. “We are worried about heavy rain in a short amount of time.”

Flooding closed three lanes on the eastbound 91 Freeway at Harbor Boulevard just after 10 a.m., but the lanes reopened less than a half hour later, said CHP Officer Denise Quesada.

There have been a rash of traffic accidents in the area -- at least double the number on an average day—but exact numbers are not yet available, she said.

In Santa Barbara County, a mudslide was reported about 6 a.m. in the burn areas around Montecito near Westmont College, said Steven Van Horn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. But there were no known injuries or damage reported, Van Horn said.

More than an inch of rain has fallen in many parts of the region, with some foothill areas seeing up to two inches, forecasters said. Snow fell to below 4,000 feet in some mountain areas, causing schools to close today in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The storm also caused major congestion in some mountain passes, including along the 15 Freeway, where motorists reported "white out" conditions. Snow was also falling on the 5 Freeway near Frazier Park.

Forecasters expect up to 18 inches of snow and winds of up to 50 mph in some mountain areas.

Los Angeles officials closed the Sepulveda Basin because of rising water levels. Numerous streets in an area bounded by Victory Boulevard to the north, Burbank Boulevard to the south, Balboa Boulevard to the west and the 405 Freeway to the east have been closed since about 5 a.m., said LAPD spokesman Ben Loewellyn. It was not clear when the roads would reopen.

The National Weather Service also issued a warning of possible coastal flooding in Seal Beach, Sunset Beach and parts of San Diego County. Rain is expected to continue through Tuesday night. Total rainfall is expected to average up to 1.5 inches in coastal and valley areas, and 1.5 to 3 inches in the foothills.

The heaviest showers are expected to dump rain at a rate of half an inch per hour. People living next to burn areas should be especially watchful, said Ron Myers, spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Homeowners are advised them to survey their properties for runoff and to consider routes into and out of canyon areas

--Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Victoria Kim, Richard Winton, Tony Perry and Paloma Esquivel

Photo: Walter Verginy uses a broom to sweep a 6-inch layer of snow off his car in Frazier Park. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times