LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. - Axl Dominguez awoke early yesterday to a bumping sound and looked out the window to a scary sight: plastic trash cans floating down the flooded street.

And then the water came rushing into his house.

"We didn't have time to get anything . . . Water started coming in from all the walls. Then the wall fell and we got out through the window," Domin-guez, 15, said later, shivering in shorts, mud-splashed sweatshirt and bare feet as he carried his pajama-clad little brother to a neighbor's truck to take them to an evacuation center.

The tail end of a storm that dumped rain on Southern California for nearly a week gave the region one final lashing, burying houses and cars in mud, washing hillsides onto highways, flooding urban streets, threatening dozens of canyon homes and spreading filthy water that prompted the closing of 12 miles of Orange County beaches.

Inflatable boats and canoes were used to rescue dozens of motorists and homeowners from flooded streets, hotels and hillsides. Others refused to leave their homes, even as dirty water rose in their neighborhoods.

The storm weakened as it moved eastward, but floods still washed away at least six vacant homes in Arizona and inundated parts of Nevada and Utah.

The storm turned the final days before Christmas into a nightmare, leaving some residents fearful that bigger mudslides could strike the wildfire-scarred hillsides in suburban Los Angeles.

The low-pressure system could be in New Mexico by today and reach the Gulf Coast by Saturday with some rain, but not the deluge that hit Southern California, forecasters said. - AP

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