Motorists have been trapped, trucks have blown over, and at least two people have died in California amid a winter storm that has brought a blast of cold and snow.
A Redding woman died after a 30- to 40-foot pine tree fell on her home, according to the National Weather Service. A man and a 3-year-old girl also were injured in the accident, which the Redding Fire Department said occurred at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
And at one more person, a Harbor Patrol officer died during a windstorm in Catalina overnight, officials said.
As rush hour got underway Wednesday morning, at least six big rigs toppled onto their sides on Inland Empire highways, snarling traffic for miles and adding fresh drama to the day’s already dicey commute, the California Highway Patrol said.
“It’s pretty bad," said CHP Officer Marcelo Llerena. “Wind advisories have been in effect … and people are still driving and this is what happens."
A cold storm from Canada has brought heavy winds and several inches of snow across Southern California since Tuesday night.
Wind advisories were issued across the Southland, with gusts up to 70 mph predicted in mountain passes from Ventura to Orange and Riverside counties. Fremont Canyon in Orange County saw winds up to 57 mph, while Malibu Hills saw gusts up to 70 mph.
Ortega Highway, which connects Orange and Riverside counties, was closed Wednesday morning, a main route to Lake Elsinore and the Inland Empire.
The storm has dropped snow at unusually low elevations, according to the National Weather Service.
About 6 inches of snow piled up in neighborhoods as low as 1,400 feet near Lake Elsinore, meteorologist James Thomas said. In El Cariso Village above the lake, 10 inches of snow broke tree branches and knocked down power lines.
Even Temecula residents woke up to roads and lawns blanketed in snow.
“It looks like a white wonderland right now,” Thomas said.
Farther north in San Bernardino County, hundreds of cars and drivers were buried in snow on mountain highways, triggering huge rescue efforts.
Some 50 people were holed up early Wednesday at a church in Crestline to wait out the storm and recover their cars, and up to 200 vehicles in Big Bear were towed after they got stuck, the CHP said.
The Antelope Valley and the San Luis Obispo area could see low temperatures of 12 to 20 degrees Wednesday night, while the flats of Los Angeles and Ventura counties are forecast to see temperatures in the 20s to the low 30s.
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