At least two killed in California due to storm |

At least two killed in California due to storm

Associated Press

A fast-moving storm packing high winds roared through California Saturday, killing at least two people, dumping up to 18 inches of snow in the Sierra Nevada and cutting power to thousands in Northern California.

In Lancaster in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles, a car ran into a tree that was toppled by gusting winds. A large branch smashed through the windshield, killing the driver, whose name was not immediately released.

A 16-year-old passenger received minor injuries, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

In Ontario, the driver of a tractor-trailer rig was killed when he lost control of the vehicle and it plunged over the side of an elevated highway, said Tariq Johnson of the California Highway Patrol.

The cause of the crash remained under investigation but it was raining at the time, Johnson said.

The system from the Gulf of Alaska was expected to sweep across Southern California through early Sunday before moving eastward. Frigid overnight temperatures were forecast throughout the state for the early part of the week.

The storm brought the first significant snowfall to the Sierra Nevada since a surprise October storm dumped 4 feet of snow and stranded several groups of backpackers and rock climbers.

“We’re loving life right now,” said Rachael Woods, a spokeswoman at Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Tahoe, which had received 8 to 12 inches of fresh snow by noon. “Put your shopping off until tomorrow.”

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Lake Tahoe area south to Mammoth Lakes, reporting wind gusts of 45-65 mph at the higher elevations. Up to 10 inches of snow was forecast for Tahoe, with 12 to 18 inches predicted above 7,000 feet.

The storm knocked down electrical lines in several Northern California counties and left nearly 11,000 customers without power, including 6,700 in Oakland and Berkeley and 2,100 in Carmel. By late Saturday evening, power had been restored to most customers, although 120 remained in the dark in Carmel.

Slippery roads were blamed for an early morning crash of a big rig in Berkeley that temporarily closed all lanes of Interstate 80, and in Sonoma County rain-loosened boulders tumbled onto Highway 1 near Jenner before a road crew cleared the scenic coastal route.

Rain and wind prevented helicopters from continuing the search Saturday for a hiker missing in the Mount Pinos area of the Los Padres National Forest in Kern County.

Robert Komenda, 64, of the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles, did not return from a hike Wednesday. About 70 searchers began looking for him after his vehicle was found Thursday near his usual hiking trail.

In San Diego County, weather conditions disrupted an attempt to rescue two hikers stuck since midmorning in the Santa Rosa Mountains near Borrego Springs.

A county sheriff’s helicopter located the hikers, one of whom had a broken leg, and landed but had to take off again when winds picked up, sheriff’s Lt. Edna Ito said.

Several rescue workers who were on the helicopter stayed behind with the hikers and tended to the 39-year-old woman’s injury, Ito said.

A ground crew had planned to try to reach the hikers but had been unable to do so by late Saturday, Ito said.

While today was expected to be clear through most of the state, forecasters said high winds would remain in the Sierra, the coastal mountains and the Tejon Pass north of Los Angeles.

Another brief storm was expected to hit the state Wednesday.