Evacuations in effect as storm moves in

Soaked mountainsides loomed over Los Angeles foothill communities on Saturday as a storm centered off California pushed bands of rain into a state that sorely needs it but not at such dangerously high rates.

Evacuation orders remained in effect for hundreds of homes in the area, where fires have burned away vegetation that holds soil in place. The storm marked a sharp departure from many months of drought that has grown into a crisis for the state’s farming industry. But such storms would have to become common to make serious inroads against drought, weather forecasters have said.

Officials warned that more heavy downpours are expected, and they urged residents who left their homes as much as three days earlier to be patient.

“These mountains are now saturated and soaked. We know where the mud’s gonna go, we just don’t how much and what the intensity is going to be,” Assistant Chief Steve Martin of the Los Angeles County fire department said in a news conference.

About 1,200 houses in the cities of Azusa and Glendora as well as nearby Monrovia have been under evacuation because of the possibility of destructive flows from the San Gabriel Mountains.

Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers said experts planned to study the condition of slopes where rain had fallen at the rate of 1.3 inches an hour at times.

— Associated Press

Large crack causes risk of dam failure

A crack in a major Columbia River dam poses enough of a risk of dam failure that Grant County, Wash., authorities have activated an emergency-response plan.

Officials said there is no threat to the public from the crack in the Wanapum Dam. But the utility is lowering water levels a total of 20 feet out of fear the structure otherwise could endanger inspectors assessing the damage.

Last week, an engineer noticed a slight “bowing” above the spillway gates near where cars drive across the dam. Underwater divers found a 2-inch-wide crack that stretched 65 feet along the base of one of the piers. The utility determined Friday afternoon that the failure risk was high enough for them to start notifying other government agencies and downstream water users.

“This is a situation that’s really changing as more information becomes available,” said Thomas Stredwick, spokesman for the county Public Utility District.

Wanapum can generate more than 1,000 megawatts of power. The utility has been able to meet all of its power needs, but Wanapum is such a big electricity generator that the utility may have to buy power on the open market.

— McClatchy/Tribure

3 on Ultimate Frisbee team killed in crash

Neither alcohol nor excessive speed appears to be a factor in a crash that killed three Minnesota college students who were members of one of the nation’s top Ultimate Frisbee teams, the Minnesota State Patrol said Saturday.

A sports-utility vehicle carrying five Carleton College students lost control on the icy road south of the Twin Cities near Northfield on Friday and slid into the path of an oncoming semitrailer, Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said at a news conference.

The State Patrol identified the dead as James P. Adams, 20, of St. Paul, Minn.; Paxton M. Harvieux, 21, of Stillwater, Minn.; and Michael D. Goodgame, 20, of Westport, Conn.

William Sparks, 20, of Evanston, Ill., who was driving, and Conor J. Eckert, 19, of Seattle, were seriously injured, according to the state patrol. The driver of the truck was not injured.

Eric Sieger, media relations director for Carleton College in Northfield, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the students played on the school’s Ultimate Frisbee team, which finished third in the country last year.

Carleton President Steven G. Poskanzer released a statement Friday offering “heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the families and friends” of the three students who were killed, according to the Star Tribune.

— Associated Press

Ship honors Flight 93: A new U.S. Navy ship named to honor 40 passengers and crew members killed when their hijacked United Airlines flight crashed as they fought with terrorists during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was put into service in Philadelphia on Saturday. The USS Somerset is named for the southwestern Pennsylvania county where Flight 93 crashed. With its 684-foot starboard side as the backdrop, the amphibious transport dock warship was formally commissioned in front of more than 5,000 spectators at Penn’s Landing. “What we commemorate is not that war or an attack on America,” said Sen. Patrick Toomey (R). “We commemorate the day America began to fight back.” The Somerset is the third ship to be named in honor of 9/11 victims, joining the USS New York and USS Arlington, which honor those killed in the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.

One killed in 104-vehicle pileup in Denver: Authorities say one person was killed and 30 others were injured in a giant pileup on Interstate 25 as heavy snow moved through south Denver on Saturday morning. Police say 104 vehicles were involved in crashes along a roughly two-mile stretch of highway, and the northbound lanes were closed for hours.

— Associated Press