by michelle rindels associated press
The U.S. West faced more stormy weather Saturday after a powerful system buffeted several states, stranding drivers in Nevada, forcing the postponement of sports games in Arizona, causing water rescues in California, and leading to the deaths of four people.
The system was expected to head east and reach the opposite coast by the middle of next week, but not before hitting the Southwest again with rain, snow and wind, forecasters said.
Parts of northern New Mexico have already received a dusting of snow, but forecasters say the latest storm to bear down on the state is far from over. The National Weather Service in Albuquerque said the brunt of the storm is expected to cross into New Mexico on Saturday, bringing widespread snow through the rest of the weekend, frigid temps and gusty winds.
The fierce weather was linked to three deaths in California. Officials and news reports said the death of a person Thursday near downed power lines and a tree was being investigated in Oakland, another person died in Oakland after the man crashed into a fallen tree while apparently trying to avoid debris, and a 52-year-old woman died in Yuba County when a tree fell on the parked car in which she was sitting.
Firefighters in Tucson, Ariz., Friday recovered the body of a man who was swept away by high water in the Santa Cruz River.
Forecasters said parts of both California and Arizona can also expect more severe weather, with winter storm warnings through midday Saturday in the mountains and the Antelope Valley foothills northeast of Los Angeles. However, there's only a small chance of rainstorms like those which prompted flooding in California on Thursday.
A homeless man had to be rescued from a tree by helicopter and four others were plucked from an island after becoming trapped in the swollen Santa Ana River in California's San Bernardino County.
In northern Utah, transportation officials warned truck drivers of potential trailer-toppling gusts. No accidents had been reported, but big rigs pulled off to the side of the freeways to wait out the winds Friday morning, Utah Highway Patrol officials told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Snow in higher elevations in rural eastern Nevada's Lincoln County stranded 50 to 60 cars early Friday, dispatcher Shannon Miller said. No injuries were reported, but U.S. 93 was closed south of Ely. Sheriff's dispatch said early Saturday that the roadway had been reopened, but the office did not have any information on the stranded cars.
Snow in New Mexico and Arizona prompted some schools to delay opening Friday. Interstate 25 and roads throughout northern New Mexico were icy and packed with snow.
A flood watch was in effect until early Saturday in the Phoenix area, where several miles of the Loop 303 freeway in the western suburbs were closed due to flooding. The weather service said rain totals through Saturday morning could exceed 2 inches in the Phoenix area.
The wet conditions prompted the Arizona Interscholastic Association to push back high school football semifinal games set for Friday and Saturday. Officials rescheduled the games to Monday "due to the weather conditions, field conditions and safety of the players and fans attending the games."
Authorities, meanwhile, responded to hundreds of crashes as the storm dropped rain over desert dwellers.
At least one business in thirsty southern Nevada was rejoicing over the storm system. Officials at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort north of Sin City measured 11 1/2 inches of snow at midday Friday, with a week to spare until opening day.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco, Paul Davenport in Phoenix, and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque.