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Wild weather still lashing the West

Calif. to Colo., week of storms leaves 7 dead

LOS ANGELES -- A slow-rolling series of storms that battered the West this week brought snowfall and high wind yesterday to parts of California, where weather-weary residents have already endured lashing rain, heavy snowfall, and a destructive tornado.

Since the wild weather began slogging ashore Monday, five deaths in California and two in Colorado have been blamed on storms.

Two college students disappeared after their canoe capsized in a flooded creek in Arizona. A body found yesterday was believed to be one of the students; the other remained missing.

Yesterday, up to a foot of snow fell on Colorado mountains, and northern Nevada was expecting as much as 7 feet of snow on top of the 2-3 feet that already had fallen.

Conditions were improving in Arizona, as water levels quickly fell in a Sedona-area creek that had fattened from a trickle into a river of mud, forcing a dozen neighborhoods to evacuate. Residents began cleaning up yesterday. California had been taking the brunt of the Pacific barrage, and more rain and wind were forecast for the Northern California coast by last night.

Inland, a winter storm warning was posted around Lake Tahoe on the Northern California-Nevada line. A combination of heavy snow and wind gusting to 100 miles per hour over the higher elevations shut down Interstate 80 and US 50 overnight.

In Southern California, two days of downpours have brought up to 12 inches of rain and scores of highway accidents.

In southern Nevada, more than 1.5 inches of rain fell in 24 hours at the Las Vegas airport -- a third of the city's normal yearly total -- and hundreds of accidents were reported. As the storm moved east, three Colorado highways were closed, one from accidents and two by avalanches.

The two storm victims in Colorado died when their pickup truck hit a jackknifed trailer Wednesday night. The victims, Tom Thorne and Beth Williams, were a husband-and-wife team of wildlife veterinarians who were nationally prominent experts on chronic wasting disease and brucellosis.

Elsewhere, freezing rain put an icy layer on roads in the northern Plains early yesterday, sending vehicles into ditches. "It's even very dangerous for people to try and walk," North Dakota Highway Patrol Sergeant Jim Prochniak said.

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