Rescue workers search for storm victims; at least seven die

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — Two Highway Patrol officers responding to reports of a road washout were killed Tuesday when their patrol car was pitched into a gushing river swollen by a savage El Ni¤o storm that killed five others and caused mudslides and tornadoes.
The two-day storm, the worst from El Ni¤o this winter, blew out of the water-logged state just hours after the officers and at least three other drivers were sucked into the muddy river.
Two men were rescued by helicopter, but divers searched for other victims in the Cuyama River near Santa Maria, about 200 miles north of Los Angeles after part of Highway 166 gave way.
Elsewhere in California, two college students were killed when a tree fell on cars in the Los Angeles suburb of Claremont; a man died in a mudslide in Orange County; one person died in a pileup on a fog-shrouded and flooded highway in the San Joaquin Valley; and one was dead and four missing in a car that washed away in Tijuana, Mexico.
In Northern California, waves chewed into a cliff beneath eight precariously perched homes in Pacifica south of San Francisco, and residents remained barred from 500 homes around Clear Lake north of Santa Rosa as the lake was at its highest level since 1909.
The storm swept ashore early Monday. It was the strongest — and apparently the last — in a series of rigorous weather systems that have punished the state since Feb. 1, causing more than $475 million in damage statewide this season and prompting 35 of 58 counties to declare states of emergency.