One of the most powerful storms to strike California in years has left two people dead and seen flash floods and torrential rain hit the state.
Hundreds of householders have been told to evacuate their homes due to fears of landslides caused by the “bombogenesis” or “weather bomb”.
More than 300 arriving and departing flights were delayed or cancelled at Los Angeles International Airport, and major roads have been closed.
The powerful Pacific storm – which spread from the south of the state, around Los Angeles up to San Francisco on Friday, bringing gusts of up to 70mph – has also caused power cuts and car-swallowing sinkholes.
One man was killed after a tree fell and pulled a power line onto his car in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles. Police and fire officials confirmed that a 55-year-old man had been electrocuted and pronounced dead at hospital.
Later, in the same neighbourhood, a sinkhole swallowed two cars, the second on live television as viewers watched it teeter on the edge before plunging in. Firefighters rescued one person from the first car, and the driver got out of the second before it fell. No-one was injured.
Erik Scott from the Los Angeles Fire Department said the sinkhole rescue was “a very unique and dangerous situation”.
He said the driver in the fallen car was forced to stand on top of her vehicle, underground and amid rushing water, until a ladder could be passed down to her, 10ft below the street.
A second motorist was found dead in a submerged vehicle in the town of Victorville.
A helicopter had been able to rescue one person from the roof of a car in the same area, said Eric Sherwin, San Bernardino county fire spokesman.
Mud sloshed over concrete rail barriers and about two dozen vehicles, including big-rigs and a school bus, were either mired in mud or became unable to turn around on the closed road and some were abandoned, Sherwin added.
Two people in a car were rescued and four students on the bus were removed and taken to a school office.
Another road in the area was covered by 2ft of mud.
In Sun Valley, ten cars were trapped in swift-moving water on a road and eight people had to be rescued, the fire department reported.
Firefighters used ropes and inflatable boats to rescue seven people and two dogs from the Sepulveda basin, a recreation and flood-control area along the Los Angeles River. One person was taken to hospital with a non life-threatening injury.
The storm started in southern California but also spread north into the San Joaquin Valley and up to San Francisco.
It was not expected to bring significant rain in the far north, where damage to spillways of the Lake Oroville dam forced the evacuation of 188,000 people last weekend.
Officials monitoring the stricken dam on the Feather River said they were confident the reservoir would be able to handle any runoff from expected storms because ongoing releases have been lowering the lake’s level since its spillways were damaged last week.
The National Weather Service said it could end up being the strongest storm to hit Southern California since January 1995.
Rain and wind wiped out play in golf’s Genesis Open at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.
Joe Sirard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm system was moving “very slowly” eastward.
Hundreds of trees and dozens of power lines were toppled in the Los Angeles area and at one point more than 60,000 city power customers were without electricity.
A 75ft tree fell onto an apartment building near the University of California, Los Angeles, narrowly missing a householder who was in bed, fire officials said.
Four of the six apartments have been declared unsafe to enter, prompting the evacuation of 16 college students.
“I was just sitting in bed trying to enjoy a Friday morning of no class,” one resident told KCAL-TV.
“I heard a giant, like thunder, popping sound and then next thing I knew a branch was coming through the ceiling.”
The falling debris caused scratches to her leg.
She said: “I was covered in sawdust. I thought ‘Where am I going to live?’”