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California storm brings rain, hail, fear

Another powerful storm slammed into water-logged California on Saturday, dropping heavy snow that lured skiers to mountains and dumping up to an inch of rain an hour that left rivers bulging and roads flooded anew.

It was the third destructive storm system to assault the state in a week. The storms have left at least eight people dead, five missing and $23-million in damage. Nearly 15 inches of rain have fallen in some areas.

Saturday's storm, born in the Gulf of Alaska, failed to pack the relentless, river-bloating punch that came with storms earlier in the week.

Still, it dumped more than a foot of snow in the northern Sierra Nevada, putting at least a dent in the state's five-year-old drought and promising a big cash injection for ski resort operators.

Since the storms began Feb. 9, four people have died in traffic crashes, two by drowning and a man and a pregnant woman in a mudslide.

At least five people are missing, including two skiers thought to be trapped by an avalanche in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

In Santa Barbara, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, rain fell at the rate of an inch an hour at the storm's height.

Workers frantically built a sandbag dike around a mobile home park threatened by a rising creek, but the water receded just before reaching the homes, police Sgt. Merlyn Kelly said.

The storm spawned waterspouts, funnel clouds and hail in neighboring Santa Maria.

In San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles, hastily constructed berms, channels and dikes diverted water around neighborhoods undermined by the weeklong series of storms.

In seaside Malibu, a house destroyed by earlier rains was used as part of a diversion. Water gushed into one side of the house, through what was once the living room, and out the other side.

The Los Angeles River rose from 10 feet to 17 feet in less than an hour as the storm clawed its way across Los Angeles County, weather officials said.

The storm was first felt in northern California. Hayfork, nearly 200 miles north of San Francisco, recorded 1.35 inches of rain in two hours Friday. The rain was accompanied by 40 mph winds.

Highway 50 leading into South Lake Tahoe was closed intermittently early Saturday as crews cleared heavy snow, Police Sgt. Mike Ritter said.