Rain Flirts With Southland, Closes Sierra Nevada Highways


Light showers caused only a few traffic snarls Wednesday in Southern California, but the same storm system dropped up to an inch of precipitation in the Sierra Nevada, forcing road closures and boosting the state’s critical snowfall levels.

Snow conditions in the Sierra, where precipitation levels will be crucial to determine whether there will be an end to the state’s four-year drought, forced the closure of several highways, including California 158 in the June Lake area. Other Sierra routes shut down by snow included California 108, the Sonora Pass and California 120, the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park over the Tioga Pass.

Meteorologist Marty McKewon, predicting that two similar storms will pass through the state by the weekend, said the rain system that danced through the state Tuesday may have been little help in the Los Angeles area, but was “great for snow in the mountains.”

McKewon, a forecaster for WeatherData Inc., which provides weather information to The Times, said that many sections of Central California received as much as an inch of precipitation.


In the Los Angeles area, light showers and pockets of heavy fog caused traffic congestion on the Santa Monica Freeway and other freeways and may have played a role in at least two accidents, the California Highway Patrol said.

Only a trace of rain was reported in most Southland areas, including the Los Angeles Civic Center, where the season’s total of 0.21 of an inch was abysmally short of the 3.12 inches that would be normal.

In Santa Ana, 0.11 of an inch had fallen by late afternoon; 0.09 was reported in Pasadena, and 0.05 was measured in Ontario.

The driver of an out-of-service Los Angeles airport shuttle bus lost control Wednesday morning while traveling west on the Foothill Freeway near the Irwindale Avenue exit, causing an accident that tied up traffic for several hours, CHP officers said.

The bus skidded, spun around and came to a stop on the right shoulder of the freeway with its front pointing toward oncoming traffic. No passengers were aboard and the driver was not injured. But two other cars had to swerve to avoid the bus and collided, leaving one of the drivers with minor injuries, officers said.

Later in the day, the CHP responded to a report of an overturned car on the San Gabriel River Freeway near Whittier Boulevard. A truck and several other cars were also reported involved in the accident and one motorist was seriously injured, said CHP Officer Brent Vial. She was airlifted by helicopter to County-USC Medical Center, officers said. The extent of her injuries was not immediately available.

Although Wednesday’s rain had moved through the area by the end of the day, another storm was expected to move into Northern California by this morning, possibly reaching Southern California by nightfall.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will give your area much precipitation,” McKewon said.


A third storm system--equally weak and, like the others, originating in the Gulf of Alaska--might reach Southern California by Saturday, the forecaster said.

“I guess you could say this is good news, but we’re still waiting for the first big rain event,” the meteorologist said.

The continuing storm systems are also bringing in cooler weather. Wednesday’s Civic Center high was only 58 degrees, 10 degrees below normal for the date. A similar reading is expected today.