Storm Lashes California, Leaves Polluted Water

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Some have called it a storm of biblical proportions. But, the rain that deluged Southern California for the past seven days has started to clear out.

The rain washed trash, pesticides and bacteria into waterways, prompting several health warnings. Twelve miles of beach from Laguna Beach to San Clemente in Southern California's Orange County were off-limits because of sewer overflows.

In Laguna Beach, nearly four feet of runoff raced through the streets. Flooding made many roads impossible to navigate and stranded motorists had to be rescued.

Meanwhile in Silverado Canyon, firefighters helped evacuate residents after rain loosened boulders and rushing water blocked access to mountain homes.

In one neighborhood cars and homes were under two feet of mud and water.

The threat of mudslides put many at risk. More than 200 homes were ordered evacuated for more than 24 hours in La Canada Flintridge and La Crescenta, suburbs of Los Angeles. The homes were located below steep hillsides that burned in 2009 and where mudslides inundated homes and backyards in February.

"We have an area that's very saturated with water and the potential for mudflows and debris flows still exist," said the Los Angeles Fire Department's Capt. Henry Rodriguez.

After days of relentless rain, long-awaited sunshine was finally in the forecast for Thursday, but officials said Californians may want to resist the urge to head to the ocean.

"It can be very nice the next day and everyone says 'This is great! This is a beach day,'" said Jonathan E. Fielding, director of the Los Angeles county public health department. "It could well be but we will be monitoring and testing water and we won't recommend people go back there until we're sure it's safe."

The storm weakened as it moved eastward, but floods still washed away homes in Arizona and inundated parts of Nevada and Utah. The low-pressure system could reach the Gulf Coast by Saturday with some rain, forecasters said.

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