National

Calif. faces huge cleanup after storms

LOS ANGELES — Many California residents who endured flooding, mudslides and evacuations during a weeklong onslaught of rain must now clean up or even rebuild — and could face the prospect of not being able to spend Christmas at home.

The storm's push across the West left a muddy mess Thursday across Southern California and the threat of avalanches in Nevada, where Clark County officials urged residents of Mount Charleston, near Las Vegas, to leave after snow slides near two mountain hamlets.

Preliminary damage estimates throughout California were already in the tens of millions of dollars and were expected to rise.

The inland region of Southern California east of Los Angeles was emerging as among the hardest-hit areas, especially San Bernardino County.

In Highland, people were chased from their homes by walls of mud and water, leaving behind dwellings strung with holiday lights. They returned Thursday to find their neighborhood inundated with mud. Five homes were destroyed and nearly 70 others damaged.

Leslie Constante burst into tears when she approached her parents' house and saw a red tag slapped on the garage, meaning authorities had deemed it unsafe to enter. Out front, a display with two holiday reindeer was enveloped in mud several feet deep.

"My mom and dad worked so hard for this," said Constante, wearing knee high rubber boots and a rain jacket.

Highland officials estimated the storm caused $17.2 million in damage to houses, cars and a bridge that was washed away.

Along the coast in the county, the upscale community of Laguna Beach suffered an estimated $4 million in damage to 46 businesses and 20 houses.

A section of the city's popular beachfront park was washed away, leaving chunks of mud and a gaping open space where green grass had been the day before.

Curtis Duran, 45, and his two children Max and Ava strolled the trash-strewn beach in Long Beach and surveyed debris carried down to the shoreline by the Los Angeles River.

Cans, baseballs, plastic bottles and even a baby's high chair sat on the sand mixed with piles of discarded wood and shards of plastic. Ava, 5, picked up a deflated red ball and showed it to her dad.

"We come down here all the time, and I've never seen so much," said Curtis Duran.

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