Avalanches Kill 3 Skiers Outside L.A.

January 26, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A series of avalanches in the mountains outside of Los Angeles killed three people, authorities said Saturday, while Southern California braced for more powerful storms that have pounded the area with heavy snow and rain.A body discovered Saturday morning was one of two people reported missing a day earlier when three avalanches swept backcountry slopes in the San Gabriel Mountain. One snowboarder was found safe on Saturday morning after spending the night on the mountain.

"He walked out" and was in good condition, Los Angeles County sheriff's dispatcher Tracy Meritt said.

Two other skiers were pronounced dead on Friday.

Officials were "confident that there's no one else that's been missing" and called off search efforts, sheriff's Deputy Luis Castro said.

Angeles National Forest spokesman Stanton Florea said an avalanche advisory was issued for the ski area at nearby Mount Baldy, a 10,000-foot peak about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, and the lifts were closed.

Elsewhere, residents of four Orange County canyons scarred by wildfires last fall were urged to follow a voluntary evacuation order because of possible mudslides and flash floods. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the county between midnight Saturday through Sunday morning.

Meteorologist Richard Thompson said up to 8 inches of rain would fall in the hills outside Los Angeles starting Saturday evening and area ski resorts could get as much as 3 feet of powder.

"There's going to be very significant impacts," Thompson said. "Debris and mud-flows will be a great concern."

Several storms have deluged Southern California since Monday. Some areas have received more moisture in that time than during the entire rainy season last year.

In Los Angeles, a Metrolink train on a morning commute into the city Friday hit a slide of mud and rocks on the tracks. The stranded train was pulled free by another train and 2,000 passengers were delayed by 2 1/2 hours, Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said.

The first of Friday's avalanches killed Michael McKay, 23, of Wrightwood, who was an off-duty ski patroller from the Mountain High resort.

Rescuers pulled another man from a second avalanche late Friday.

He was declared dead at a nearby hospital a few hours later, Los Angeles sheriff's Deputy Cory Kennedy said. The San Bernardino County coroner's office identified him as Darin Bodie Coffey, 31, of Wrightwood.

The rescued snowboarder, who was not identified, was airlifted, examined at a hospital and sent home on Saturday, Castro said.

Steady rain soaked much of Northern California as well.

Rain caused delays of up to two hours Friday morning at San Francisco International Airport, and officials expected such delays to continue throughout the day.

Residents in the Marin County towns of San Anselmo and Fairfax are were asked to leave their homes and businesses because of flooding from a nearby creek.


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