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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

California hit by rain and snow

Rain at the Pebble Beach golf course in California, 16 Feb
Bad weather stopped play at a golf tournament in Pebble Beach, California

A powerful winter storm has brought heavy rain, strong winds and heavy mountain snow to California.

The bad weather stretched from the Mexican border up to Oregon and Washington, AP news agency reported.

Heavy snow forced the temporary closure of a 50-mile (80km) stretch of the Interstate 5 highway in the mountains north of Los Angeles.

Authorities were on alert for floods in the San Francisco Bay area and along much of California's central coast.

The final round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in California was cancelled after the greens became flooded.

Local officials said the heavy rains brought a particular threat of mudslides to areas stripped of vegetation by wildfires last year, including Orange County and northern Los Angeles County.

Although the storm has eased a period of drought, BBC forecasters say, the build-up of heavy rain over the past week has increased the risk of landslips as the ground is now saturated.

BBC forecasters say the storm will move east on Tuesday and has the potential to spark a period of very severe weather in the Midwest and north-east of the country later this week.

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