California cleans up from storm that gave much-needed soaking before hitting Southwest

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CAMARILLO, California — Californians cleaned up Saturday from a major storm that soaked the drought-stricken state before moving east to drop rain on the Southwest.

Perhaps the biggest job was in Camarillo, about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, where a Friday mudslide besieged houses, making 13 uninhabitable. The debris flowed down a hillside burned by wildfire last year.

"It's quite an earth-moving operation," said Elton Gallegly, whose wife's family owns one of the damaged homes and who stopped by Saturday to check on progress.

Gallegly, a former congressman, said work crews using a huge backhoe and several other vehicles told him they hoped to clear the road in front of the houses by dark. Though he was impressed by the "incredible progress," he thought that timeline was ambitious — and it still wouldn't mean the removal of tons of muck surrounding the homes.

Cleanup also was underway in South Los Angeles, where a small — and rare — tornado briefly touched down, ripping parts off several roofs and knocking down trees.

The cleanup came as more rain was forecast for coming days, though the National Weather Service said that precipitation shouldn't cause the same amount of damage as the recent storm. All of which would be good news in a state where three years of drought means every inch of rain helps.

Weather experts say many more storms are needed to pull the state out of its current water crisis.

On Saturday, utility crews restored power to nearly everyone who lost it, though roads including a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County remained closed. In mountains east of Los Angeles, ski resorts welcomed up to a foot of fresh snow.

The storm was powerful enough that in Northern California, which was hit Thursday by up to 8 inches of rain but has been generally dry since, residents of two trailer parks in Redwood City were still bailing floodwaters Saturday.

Meanwhile, north of San Francisco, Sonoma County residents said they were relieved that the Russian River didn't overflow its banks as it has in past storms. The river did reach just above flood stage, but the water quickly receded.

A few low-lying areas of Guerneville did flood, but damage was minimal in a place where, for example, a 2006 flood caused $300 million in damage.

"This is nothing," Judith Eisen, who has lived for 40 years in one of the neighborhoods that flooded.

As the storm traveled east to Arizona, Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs received about a third of an inch of rain overnight, according to the National Weather Service. The northern Arizona city of Flagstaff received roughly half an inch of rain starting around midnight and then snow at around 6 a.m.

The weather service forecast more rain in California starting Sunday in the north and Monday in the south — and another storm later in the coming week.

In each case, rain from the central coast down to Los Angeles County should total about half an inch, with up to 2 inches in mountains.

As for the risk of flash floods and landslides, "right now, it looks like probably no," weather service meteorologist Scott Sukup said.

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