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Weather hell: Killer storm is now battering California

By AP Reporter

A dangerous storm system blamed for two deaths and thousands of power outages in the US Pacific Northwest has pushed down through California, causing mudslides and evacuations.

A powerful squall line led the storm's pre-dawn charge, lashing the region with rain falling at a rate of up to 2in an hour, triggering flash flooding, the National Weather Service said.

Avalanches of mud and debris blocked part of the Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County, southern California. Street and freeway flooding snarled morning rush-hour traffic and triggered numerous accidents.

Mudslides in two areas previously stripped bare by summer wildfires forced people from their homes.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for 124 homes north-west of Los Angeles, Ventura County sheriff's department said. Some people needed help leaving because of property damage, but no injuries were reported in the area.

The storm carried warm air and vast amounts of water in a powerful current stretching from Hawaii to the West Coast and up into the mountains, where gusts up to 140mph blew through passes.

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