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Calif. rain brings no relief

Up to 30 inches of snow in the Sierra Nevada and heavy rain that caused the San Fernando Valley's worst flooding in a half-century didn't come close to easing the state's 5-year-old drought, officials said Tuesday.

Flash flood warnings were in effect for a second day in the Los Angeles region, and heavy rain combined with clogged storm drains to flood intersections and stall cars.

Lisa Hilton, 35, and her two young children managed to get out of their car seconds before water surging down Malibu Creek swept the vehicle half a mile downstream. "The car was like a boat going down the creek," said actor Nick Nolte, who was among the first to arrive at the scene.

Several more inches of rain were expected from another storm bearing down on Southern California, where a 7-inch downpour on Monday flooded part of San Fernando Valley. That flooding stranded motorists on car roofs and in trees until they could be rescued by helicopters.

It was believed to be the worst flooding in the valley, on the northwest side of the city, since 1938, said meteorologist Gary Neumann of the National Weather Service.

The Los Angeles River rose out of its banks, and water rose to 25 feet deep in the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, a huge flood control basin 15 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The basin is criss-crossed by major boulevards and filled with golf courses and wildlife preserves.

On Tuesday, the weather service reported an unofficial rain tally of 1.82 inches in a half hour near Pomona. In Ontario, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin rain gauge showed 2.34 inches during 20 hours ending Tuesday afternoon.

Both Los Angeles and suburban San Gabriel recorded a little more than 2 inches in the 24 hours ending Tuesday afternoon, forecasters said.

That still wasn't enough to keep the region from going into a sixth drought year. Sierra snow runoff captured in reservoirs is California's primary water source, but the season total is only 53 percent of normal. And the rain in the Los Angeles area only washes out to the ocean, said Dick Wagner of the state drought center in Sacramento. "It's unfortunate it can't be saved," he said.

Los Angeles County beaches were closed because of contaminated overflow from a sewage treatment plant.

Flooding also threatened houses in Malibu canyon and in Bonsall Canyon, including one owned by rock singer Pat Benatar.