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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 January 2008, 01:53 GMT
Winter storm batters western US
An official ropes off a house damaged by a tree in Sacramento
High winds brought down trees across California

A winter storm is sweeping the western states of the US, bringing heavy rain, snow and high winds.

Avalanche warnings were posted in the Sierra Nevada mountains after up to 5ft (1.5m) of snow fell. There were fresh flood warnings in southern California.

In Nevada, a levee burst after heavy rain, flooding hundreds of homes.

At least 440,000 people are without power from California to Oregon and Washington, roads have been closed and flights cancelled at some airports.

Weather forecasters said more rain and snow were predicted into early Monday, but that the weather system was weakening as it moved inland.

Trees uprooted

Two deaths have been reported so far as a result of the weather.

A woman was killed by a falling tree in Oregon. In Los Angeles another women died when her pickup truck was swept into a flood channel. Rescuers found her boyfriend clinging to a tree.

Map

In Lyon County, Nevada, about 3,000 people were stranded after a levee, or dyke, along a canal broke early on Saturday, authorities said, and in parts of the town of Fernley water was up to 3ft deep.

In central and northern California, winds gusted up to 100mph (160km/h), overturning lorries and uprooting trees.

San Francisco was particularly badly hit, and a local state of emergency was declared, though there were no reports of casualties.

Flights in the San Francisco area have been grounded and storm winds meant large lorries were banned from the Golden Gate Bridge.

The former prison on Alcatraz Island in the bay was closed to tourists.

Warnings 'ignored'

Further south in California, areas denuded by October's forest fires were bracing for flooding and mudslides.

A surfer rides a wave churned by the winter storm underneath the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday
Some have enjoyed the wild weather brought by the storm

Emergency services have asked at least 3,000 people living in Orange County canyons to leave home as a precaution - though reportedly few have obeyed the instruction.

The Interstate 80 - the main east-west link between northern California and Nevada - has now reopened after snow in the Sierra Nevada forced its closure.

Although blizzard warnings have been downgraded, authorities are urging all non-essential travel be postponed.

In California, an emergency operations centre is co-ordinating the storm response, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he had spoken to the US Home Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, by phone.



SEE ALSO
Snow storms in US claim 22 lives
25 Dec 07 |  Americas
Snow rescue for California family
20 Dec 07 |  Americas
More North American snowstorm pictures
18 Dec 07 |  In Pictures
Big snow storms hit US and Canada
17 Dec 07 |  Americas
Ice storm in US claims 22 lives
12 Dec 07 |  Americas

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