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Devastating storm slams southern California

Violent storms have pounded California, killing at least two people and forcing hundreds to leave their homes. Officials have warned of further downpours in the central part of the state up to the Bay area.

At least two people have died after southern California was pounded by the fiercest storm to hit the state in recent memory.

One man was found dead in a submerged vehicle that had washed up a flooded street in the town of Victorville.

Another man was killed in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles, after a falling tree downed a power line. The line hit the man's car, electrocuting him.

There were also several reports of deaths on the slick and flooded roads across the state, although officials have been unable to determine which were direct results of the storm.

USA Heftiger Sturm in Kalifornien (picture-alliance/dpa/J. C. Hong)

Some areas reported wind speeds of up to 75 mph.

National Weather Service reported of "possible impacts due to potentially widespread heavy rain include flooding for urban areas and small streams, flash flooding with mud and debris flows." Particularly at risk locations are those near recent burn areas, and mud- and rockslides near canyon walls, the weather agency said.

At one point, the National Weather Service said it recorded a wind gust approaching San Diego Country at a speed of 120.7 kph (75 mph).

The storm, which could be the worst to hit sourth California since 1995, is expected to last through Saturday, while further downpours are expected in the northern part of the state by the end of the week.

Household and travel disrupted

Los Angeles fire officials said some 150 electonic lines had been downed, leaving about 150,000 people in the city without power.

Meanwhile, over 200 residents in the city of Duarte, located around 32 km (20 miles) east Los Angeles on the foothills of the San Gabirel Mountains, were ordered to evacuate their homes late on Friday out of fear of mudslides. Officials also issued voluntary evacuations for a number of residents in Camarillo Springs, north of LA.

Torrential rain also impacted travel across California, ravaging roads and forcing several stretches of highway to close, including busy arteries such as Interstate 5 and Interstate 10. More than 300 arriving and departing flights at Los Angeles International Airport were also cancelled.

USA Heftiger Sturm in Kalifornien (picture-alliance/Zumapress/J. Gritchen)

Highways were forced to close on Friday across California, causing major traffic disruptions.

Northern California braces itself

Heavy rainfall also battered parts of northern California and southern Oregon on Friday.

Officials warned of further major downpours in the central and northern part of California, issuing storm and flood warnings for late Monday into Tuesday.

The warnings sparked major concerns over how much impact the storm might have on the Oroville Dam's broken spillway. Damage to the dam last week forced almost 200,000 people to evacuate their homes out of fears the spillway could collapse.  A failure of the spillway could unleash a massive flood.

dm/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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