LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. —Axl Dominguez awoke early Wednesday to a bumping sound and looked out the window to a scary sight: plastic trash cans floating down the flooded street.
And then the water came rushing into his house.
"We didn't have time to get anything.... Water started coming in from all the walls. Then the wall fell and we got out through the window," the 15-year-old Dominguez said hours later, shivering in shorts, a mud-splashed sweatshirt and bare feet as he carried his pajama-clad little brother to the truck of a neighbor who finally took them to an evacuation center.
The tail end of a storm that dumped rain on Southern California for nearly a week gave the region one final lashing, burying houses and cars in mud, washing hillsides onto highways, flooding urban streets, threatening dozens of canyon homes and spreading filthy water that prompted the closure of 12 miles of Orange County beaches.
Inflatable boats and canoes were used to rescue dozens of motorists and homeowners from flooded streets, hotels and hillsides. Others refused to leave their homes, even as dirty water and mud sliced through their neighborhoods.
The storm weakened as it moved eastward, but floods still washed away at least six vacant homes in Arizona and inundated parts of Nevada and Utah.
The low-pressure system could be in New Mexico by today and reach the Gulf Coast by Saturday with some rain, but not the deluge that hit Southern California, forecasters said.
The storm turned the final days before Christmas into a nightmare, and left some residents fearful that more and bigger mudslides could strike the wildfire-scarred hillsides in suburban Los Angeles even after the skies cleared.
Officials on Tuesday ordered the evacuation of 232 homes in La Canada Flintridge and La Crescenta, suburbs of Los Angeles below steep hillsides that burned in 2009 and where mudslides inundated homes and backyards in February.
"The ground is so saturated it could move at any time" and the threat will remain for several weeks, said Bob Spencer, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.