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Storm-weakened tree kills sleeping child in Calif
Storm-weakened tree crashes into home, kills sleeping 8-year-old in Northern California
By The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif (AP) ' A storm-weakened tree crashed down on a house, killing a sleeping 8-year-old girl, as an unusually fierce winter storm blew through California over the weekend, leaving thousands without power Monday after dumping much-needed rain on the parched state.

The 100-foot-tall fir tree hit a home in the Northern California town of Arnold early Sunday, killing Haley Verzani in her bedroom, authorities said.

The tree, which was 2 to 3 feet in diameter, was weakened by the storm and uprooted by a nearby creek, the Record of Stockton ( ) reported.

It took firefighters 20 minutes to get to the scene because they had to maneuver through 6 inches of unplowed snow, Ebbetts Pass Battalion Chief Ron Getter said.

The storm that rolled into the region Saturday on the eve of spring followed a dry winter caused by La Nina, a condition in which the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean is lower than normal.

"It was very unusual because it was probably the first actual major storm for this year," said Stuart Seto, a National Weather Service forecaster.

The storm dumped about three-quarters of an inch of rain in downtown Los Angeles and 2-3 inches, generally, in the mountains.

Rain has been in short supply this winter. Los Angeles normally receives nearly 13 inches of rain during the year that runs from July 1 to June 30, but so far it has received around 6 inches, Seto said.

"It helped but it wasn't enough to bring us anywhere near normal," he said. "Basically, La Nina is hampering our weather pattern."

The storm produced gusty winds that knocked down power lines. Overall, nearly 150,000 Southern California Edison customers were left in the dark at times, although most outages were brief.

By Monday, more than 10,000 people were still without electricity, including more than 5,500 in the Orange County coastal community of Laguna Hills.

No major outages were reported in Los Angeles, although some 4,100 people lost power over the weekend.

The storm moved eastward and by midmorning only San Diego County was seeing any stormy weather. Ice and snow closed dozens of miles of Interstate 8 in Cleveland National Forest for more than an hour before it was cleared.

Temperatures were expected to be about 5 degrees warmer through Tuesday as a little high pressure moved into the area. The next chance of rain was not expected until Saturday, forecasters said.

The storm was a blessing to ski resorts and to kids who were praying for a snow day. Southern California mountains generally received a half-foot to 2 feet of snow, but Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra Nevada reported 42 inches over two days.

"There hasn't been anything like this all season," Robby Ellingson, general manager of Mount Baldy ski resort, told the San Bernardino Sun ( ).

The snow could allow the Mountain High resort to extend its season until Easter, Kim Hermon of Mountain High told the paper.

"This is the best storm we've had in the 2011-2012 season," she said. "It's a March miracle."

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