Countywide : 1 Death, 2 Fires Are Blamed on the Rain

The mere quarter of an inch of scattered rain Tuesday resulted in one death, a traffic accident that injured a California Highway Patrol officer and a toppled telephone pole that ignited two fires.

The storm is expected to continue through Thursday.

The worst accident Tuesday occurred on the Santa Ana Freeway just before 4:30 p.m., when a Huntington Beach motorcyclist driving between lanes clipped the right rear of a pickup truck, causing the rider to lose control of the bike, California Highway Patrol spokeswoman Denise Medina said. He fell into the next lane and was run over by a big rig.

The motorcyclist, whose name was not immediately available, died at the scene, she said.

Minutes earlier, a telephone pole near the 8100 block of 4th Street fell onto a condominium, setting off two fires.

Preliminary investigations indicated that the pole fell because of the saturated ground, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Dan Young said.

The fallen pole broke power lines that draped a nearby unit, starting another fire.

About 150 residents within the block were evacuated for about two hours as 40 firefighters battled the flames. No one was injured.

Meanwhile, a CHP officer was helping the driver of a disabled van parked on the shoulder of the Riverside Freeway when a passing motorist lost control of his car because of the slippery road and hit the van, which struck the officer, throwing him about 17 feet, authorities said.

He suffered back and neck injuries, and was in stable condition Tuesday night at Martin Luther Hospital in Anaheim.

Meteorologist Curtis Brack said Tuesday's rain was part of a larger storm that is moving in with colder temperatures and stronger winds.

"This is a big, disorganized storm," said Brack, from WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times. The storm "has been setting up a big low pressure area over the entire southwest United States."

On Tuesday, scattered rainfall fell heaviest in coastal areas. Dana Point reported the most with 0.18 of an inch, followed by Anaheim with 0.17, and Santa Ana with 0.10.

Tuesday's rainfall raised the season total in Santa Ana to 8.96 inches, compared to the normal season average of 10.11. By this point in last season, a whopping 22.72 inches had fallen.

Brack said a half-inch to an inch of rain is expected in the coastal and valley areas in the next two days.

In the mountains, the storm is expected to dump as much as 1 1/2 inches of rain and wind gusts will reach 40 to 45 mph. The snow level is expected to drop to 5,000 feet.

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