Winter storm brings showers, hail and thunder to Southern California

Winter storm sweeps through Southern California on Sunday

A winter storm swept through Southern California on Sunday, bringing scattered showers, hail and thunder while higher elevations were expected to see a foot of snow overnight.

The low-pressure system brought a smattering of storm cells, dumping rain throughout the region from San Luis Obispo to Orange counties.

"These showers are only 5 to 6 miles wide," said Andrew Rorke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "They are driving around the Southland, and wherever they go, you get a lot of rain."

Parts of Ventura County saw up to a half-inch of rain per hour, prompting a flash-flood warning for the central county that extended until 8 p.m.

Heavy downpours in parts of Los Angeles County brought minor flooding and an uptick in vehicle collisions. Santa Monica's airport saw 2.25 inches of rain Sunday, while Los Angeles International Airport saw about 0.05 inch.

"Those two airports are only four miles apart, but they had huge differences in rainfall," Rorke said.

The Big Bear area was under a winter storm warning, with about a foot of snow possible at higher elevations, according to forecasters. That is welcome news for resort operators, who have been struggling with a dry season.

The snow level was also expected drop to 3,500 feet at the Grapevine at the Kern County line, creating treacherous conditions for drivers on Interstate 5.

Near the base of the Mt. Baldy ski lift, slushy snow brought out throngs of visitors Sunday afternoon.

"It's not about how much snow there is. It's the adventure of it. We're trying to build memories," said Ray Gonzalez, a Long Beach police sergeant who brought his 6-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter to the slopes for an afternoon snowball fight and sledding.

Jorge Medina also brought his son Leonardo, 2, and daughter Vanessa, 7, from Fontana to the snow-packed hillside. Medina, a civil engineer, said the day underscored the perks of Southern California living: mountains in one direction, beaches in another.

After a morning lull in precipitation, a second, weaker storm is expected to pass through Monday afternoon. But the rain will not put much of a dent in the state's lingering drought.

"Right now it's enough to make my cactus smile and to green everything up," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. "But we would need an inch a day for the next 30 days to make a dent in this drought.... Let's get right down to it, this is puny."

Since July 1, the beginning of the rainy season, the Los Angeles area has received about 6.4 inches of rain and "we should be over 10 inches by now," Patzert said.

Meanwhile, a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County was shut down in both directions early Sunday after a mudslide, authorities said.

The highway was not expected to reopen until about 8 p.m. Sunday, but unexpected downpours could trigger a new round of slides, officials warned.

cindy.chang@latimes.com

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

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