The worst storm of a winter already three times wetter than normal rocked California Tuesday with tornadoes, torrential rains, raging seas, floods and mudslides. For good measure, Los Angeles also had a minor earthquake.
The storm closed Los Angeles schools, unroofed part of the city's convention center, and forced Queen Elizabeth to ride an aging Navy bus through flooded streets in Long Beach en route to a meeting with President Reagan.
The death toll rose to 9 when a police helicopter patrolling a tornado scene in Los Angeles crashed while landing, killing one officer and injuring another.
Near San Francisco Bay, a levee burst on Coyote Creek, forcing more than 2,400 people from their homes in the hamlet of Alviso and parts of San Jose. San Jose Fire Capt. Guy Newgren said the sewage treatment plant 'is an island,' with the road to the plant under 10 feet of water.
'It's unbelievable. You know we worry about earthquakes, but never this,' said Gerald Baker of Los Angeles. 'I'd never believed something like this could happen in Southern California.'
March made a lamblike entry to the Midwest and Great Lakes, where temperatures pushed into the 60s to begin closing out one of the tamest winters on record.
Texas basked in temperatures in the 70s and 80s. A high of 89 in Dallas was taken as an indication winter has left the state.
In the Southeast, a storm pushed water over parts of North Carolina's Outer Banks, but most of the coast escaped major damage as the storm moved out to sea. Rain was scattered from South Carolina to New England, while northerly winds to 30 mph whipped the middle Atlantic Coast.
Three tornadoes ripped the Los Angeles area, the worst of them cutting a 3-mile swath through south Los Angeles. It damaged about 100 homes and businesses, overturned cars, toppled palm trees and power poles and tore a third of the roof off the Convention Center at the edge of downtown. Damage to the center was estimated at $2.5 million.
Another tornado overturned 15 to 20 trailers in Santa Ana, and a third touched down in Pasadena but caused no serious damage.
A minor earthquake rocked the Los Angeles area about midday, but caused no damage.
Three inches of rain drenched downtown Los Angeles, and 60 miles to the east, 6 inches fell on Mount Wilson.
Rain turned to snow as the storm reached the mountains and winter storm warnings were posted.
Several hundred people fled a five-square-mile area of Huntington Beach, some in boats, because of overflowing runoff from the Southern California flood control system.
A Huntington Beach man was electrocuted Tuesday while trying to cover an electric boiler on his mushroom farm during driving rain. Earlier in the week, two schoolboys drowned in a normally placid swimming hole and five people died in traffic accidents.
Army helicopters snatched 28 people from a rugged canyon area south of Monterey in central California when it was cut off by mud and rock slides. Another 12 were left until Wednesday when winds became too severe to fly.
Queen Elizabeth II refused to fly by helicopter to President Reagan's mountaintop Rancho del Cielo because of heavy rain and wind. She went part of the way in a battered Navy bus whose engine was mounted high enough to keep out of flood waters, and finished the trip in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm amusement parks closed because the weather made it 'too dangerous' for patrons.
A 200-foot-long Union Oil pier in Avila Beach on the central California coast collapsed in high surf shortly aftr 12:30 p.m. PST. Rescuers plucked three people out of the water unharmed.
The rain-swollen Sacramento River in Northern California rushed over its banks, forcing more than 300 people to flee along 75 miles of riverfront. Heavy surf pounded Stinson Beach north of San Francisco, imperiling waterfront homes.
Steve Corfidi of the National Severe Storms Forecast center called the storm 'definitely' the region's most ferocious of the winter. A series of storms ending Feb. 8 caused an estimated $95 million damage throughout California, and helped push the first two months' rainfall to three times the normal level.