January 5, 2008 / 8:43 PM / in 10 years

UPDATE 1-California braces for second round of storms

(Recasts with weather update, changes dateline, adds byline)

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Californians braced for another round of fierce winter weather on Saturday, a day after strong winds, heavy rains and snow prompted evacuations and left more than 1 million homes without electricity.

A canal levee broke near Reno, Nevada, early on Saturday and flooded some 800 residences as the storm moved east, a Nevada Department of Public Safety spokesman said.

But across neighboring California, people were mostly cleaning up and seeing power restored. No major damage was reported due to mudslides or rain, as had been feared after wildfires scorched many hillside areas last year.

“We seem to be at a lull between two storms,” said Rochelle Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “We had some minor slides, lots of downed trees and downed power lines ... . But most of the (state) agencies were very ready.”

The second, colder weather front was expected to dump more rain and snow across the state throughout Saturday and into Sunday.

“(The bad weather) will continue through at least tomorrow, and then there’s another round on Monday,” said Jane Hollingsworth, a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Weather Service.

The first storm swept through Northern California on Friday, blowing scaffolding off buildings and shutting down streets in San Francisco. Big trucks were barred from the Golden Gate Bridge, where winds reached 55 mph (90 kph).

Mountains in the eastern part of the state were hit by major snowfall and wind gusts as high as 100 to 150 mph (160-240 kph).

Snow accumulations of 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 metres) were expected in the Sierra Nevada mountains over the weekend.

By Friday night, the storm was pummeling Los Angeles and communities to the south in Orange County, where roughly 3,000 people were asked to leave their homes in hillside areas hit by wildfires and prone to mudslides.

On Saturday state officials said that no major slides or home damage was reported in Orange County, and that power was being restored to some 1.5 million homes across the state.

Near Fernley, Nevada, an agricultural and suburban town 32 miles (50 km) east of Reno, a 30-foot-wide (9-metre-wide) breach erupted in a canal levee.

Some residences in the lower-lying section of the town stood in 3 feet (1 metre) of water, leaving about 3,500 people stranded. People were evacuated to a school. (Additional reporting by Adam Tanner; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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