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Monster Storm Pounds California

NASA's GOES-11 satellite captured an image of the famous 'Pineapple Express" weather pattern on Dec. 19, 2010 NASA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters/NASA hide caption

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NASA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters/NASA

This is the Pineapple Express: a funnel of torrential rain over the west coast, dropping hail, waterspouts and flooding areas from San Diego up through Oregon. ABC News cites NWS meteorologist Bill Hoffer, who's warned today is the most critical for Southern California: "It's going to be a three-ring circus", Hoffer says.

Headline in the LA Times: LA Region Braces for Worst Storm Yet. Some areas could get up to 1.5 inches of rain per hour this morning. Six counties are under emergency and some residents evacuated.

Tweet from the LA Times:

LAcrimes Raining so hard in foothills of LA that it is probably a noise violation

A vehicle sits partially submerged by flooding from the San Diego River during a powerful rainstorm on December 21, 2010. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images hide caption

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Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

A vehicle sits partially submerged by flooding from the San Diego River during a powerful rainstorm on December 21, 2010.

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

And that's just LA. Further east and in higher elevations, feet of snow have fallen on Utah, Colorado and northern Arizona. Meteorologist Dave Bruno warned MSNBC this is an unusually powerful storm - it could "march right across the country and create a lot of bad weather along the way. It could affect the Southern Plains on Thursday and Friday. If it sticks together it'll hit Florida by Saturday."

A person shovels snow in Crested Butte, Colo. on Dec. 21, 2010. Nathan Bilow/AP hide caption

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Nathan Bilow/AP

A person shovels snow in Crested Butte, Colo. on Dec. 21, 2010.

Nathan Bilow/AP

UN: IVORY COAST RISKS RETURN TO CIVIL WAR

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo insists he won the election. International observers and the UN say he lost and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara is the rightful president. But Gbagbo has the guns. As the Press Association notes, the United Nations confirms "mercenaries, including freelance former combatants from Liberia, have been recruited to target certain groups in the population".

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The idea behind Ivory Coast's presidential election last month was to finally settle wounds from the last civil war, fought in 2002-03. Reuters reports France is telling its civilians to leave now. The US has already done so.

Update at 7:30 am: Reuters reports the World Bank froze all its loans to Ivory Coast.

OBAMA READIES REPEAL OF DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL

Politico reports the President will sign legislation overturning the ban on gays and lesbians who serve openly in the military today at 9:15 am. The AP says so many people are attending the ceremony it was moved to the auditorium at the Interior Dept.