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California Christmas weather: Gale-force winds, snow in the mountains

Some snow expected in San Gabriel Mountains for Christmas Day

Be thankful if all your presents make it under the tree Thursday morning, because it was probably a rough ride for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

The National Weather Service said a cold front that started in Canada could pull in strong winds and a “dusting” of snow for the San Gabriel Mountains, giving some Southern Californians an honest-to-goodness white Christmas.

The cold front will mean a dramatic dip in temperatures in some parts of the state.

There’s a slight chance of a couple of inches of snow, said forecaster Stuart Seto. The bigger issue across the region -- particularly in the I-5 corridor and valley communities -- was the wind.

The National Weather Service issued a host of advisories across the state Wednesday, including cautions for gale-force winds at sea level and high winds along the region’s shipping corridors. Wind gusts up to 65 mph in the Grapevine could knock over big rigs and uproot trees, knocking out power.

Earlier this week, strong winds knocked out power to more than 1,000 customers in the San Fernando Valley. And lifeguards at local beaches were busy with rescues from the strong surf and high tides, authorities said.

In the mountains near Sacramento, forecaster Johnnie Powell said at least 6 inches of snow were expected to blanket towns above 5,000 feet.

“In the mountains, it’s going to be white” Thursday morning, Powell said. The bigger issue at higher elevations, as in Los Angeles, will be the wind, Powell said.

The storm is just the latest in what has shaped up to be a notably good December for California precipitation. Recent storms brought several feet of snow to parts of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and elsewhere. But California will need a steady supply of it over the coming months to make a lasting difference in the depleted snowpack.

The water year that ended Sept. 30 was the third-driest period on record, state officials said. Only 1924 and 1977 recorded less statewide rain. It was the driest year ever in the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast and Southern California.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Amanda Covarrubias contributed to this report.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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