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Southland Catches Cold as Front Rumbles In : Weather: Rain and snow move into San Diego County on blustery winds. Rain is expected to continue falling sporadically through Friday.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The tip of a polar storm from the Canadian Yukon pushed into San Diego Wednesday, bringing rain and stiff winds, a dusting of snow in the mountains, scattered power outages and a flurry of fender benders.

Winter, which doesn’t officially start until Friday, is advertising its arrival, said Wilbur Shigehara, senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service in San Diego.

The rain will continue sporadically through Friday, Shigehara said. Driven by wind gusts up to 25 m.p.h, the blowing rain seemed to bring more moisture than it actually did, he said. The storm had dropped only .06 of an inch fell at Lindbergh Field by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Mt. Laguna, with .51 of an inch, had the most recorded rainfall in the county. Other rainfall totals by Wednesday afternoon were: Chula Vista, .08; Coronado, .04; Del Mar, .03; El Cajon, .14; Escondido, .11; ; Julian, .35; Lemon Grove, .11; Miramar, .14; National City, .03; Poway, .05, and Vista, .04.

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The California Highway Patrol posted a wind advisory beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday for campers and other high-profile vehicles traveling on Interstate 5 from Oceanside through Camp Pendleton and on Interstate 8 in East County from near Mt. Laguna down to the desert floor.

A small-craft advisory has been posted, and a wind advisory is also in effect for the mountains and deserts through today.

Numerous fender benders were reported Wednesday but no fatalities, and no traffic alerts have been posted, CHP spokesman Joe Wolf said.

Electrical outages in Point Loma, Santee, Escondido and East San Diego were reported, but power was restored to most areas within a short time, according to a spokesman for San Diego Gas & Electric. The largest outage, affecting 12,000 homes in the Kensington neighborhood and the Fairmount Avenue area of East San Diego, lasted about half an hour. Branches and palm fronds falling onto power lines caused most of the disruptions.

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The rainstorm is expected to move out of the area by the weekend, leaving clear skies and cold weather, Shigehara said.

Temperatures today at the beach will range from 52 to 56, with wind gusts to 25 m.p.h., Shigehara said. The surf will peak at 2 to 4 feet and the ocean temperature is near 60 degrees.

Coastal areas and inland valleys will experience highs of 52 to 58 today and Friday, Shigehara said. Coastal nighttime lows are expected to range from 42 to 48 tonight, 38 to 45 inland.

In the mountains, the snow level will be down to 2,000 feet tonight, with winds up to 35 m.p.h. Highs should range from 31 to 36 today and drop to 19 to 25 tonight.

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In the deserts, winds up to 35 m.p.h. are expected with temperatures of 55 to 60 today and lows tonight of 35 to 45.

Elsewhere in Southern California, the storm front raised prospects of much-needed rain in the lowlands, welcome snow in the mountains, and winter-like low temperatures through Christmas.

As the storm moved south packing strong winds, the National Weather Service warned motorists of blizzard conditions on Interstate 5 in the the Tehachapi Mountains and issued winter storm warnings for the southern Sierra Nevada.

The storm had already shown its force in Northern California Wednesday, dumping several inches of snow on Lake Tahoe and bringing winter storm warnings for travel in the Sierra Nevada.

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Gale-force gusts whipped up a blinding sandstorm on Interstate 15 about 10 miles north of Barstow around 11 a.m. Wednesday, touching off a chain-reaction crash involving two Greyhound buses, a truck and several other automobiles, the California Highway Patrol said.

A dozen people suffered major injuries, and more than 40 others received minor injuries, the CHP reported. They were treated at nearby hospitals.

After the accident, a 57-mile section of I-15, the main route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, was closed because of impaired visibility.

“The storm is by far the strongest of the fall,” said meteorologist Marty McKewon of WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.

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McKewon expected the storm to dump up to an inch of precipitation in coastal mountain ranges and from a quarter to a half inch in the Los Angeles Basin before a break in the weather Friday and Saturday. Then, he said, more showers are possible on Monday and Christmas Day.

McKewon advised motorists planning to get an early start on the holiday by traveling north on I-5 through the Tehachapis today to delay their trip until Friday.

“Not only will there be heavy snow, but there will 50- to 60-m.p.h. winds,” he said.

Motorists on U.S. 395, east of the Sierra Nevada, were warned of possible snow in the Antelope and Owens valleys, the main route to the Mammoth Lakes ski area.

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