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Record Cold Hits County; Storms Loom

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mountain resorts braced for crowds, and weekend skiers readied for the slopes after the latest winter storm--heralded by hail, thunder and lightning--dropped temperatures in San Diego County on Friday to record levels.

Friday’s daytime high was 57 degrees, which tied as the coolest day on record for the “Ides of March,” last reached in 1895, National Weather Service forecaster Wilbur Shigehara said.

“The last time it was this cold was almost 100 years ago,” Shigehara said. “It’s a very cold, cold storm.”

The storm, which moved into the area Wednesday, dropped about one-third of an inch of rain at Lindbergh Field and was expected to have left the area by this morning, Shigehara said. Pea-sized hail fell on various parts of the county Friday, including Miramar and El Cajon, while 1.6 inches of “wet snow” fell at Julian.

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A special marine statement was issued Friday afternoon to boaters, saying that squalls could produce dangerous winds gusting to 50 m.p.h. accompanied by thunderstorms.

A funnel cloud, spawned by the storm’s strong winds, was spotted over the ocean off Ocean Beach just before noon, Shigehara said.

Friday’s low was 51 degrees, which was not a record.

Today was expected to be slightly warmer and dry, under partly cloudy skies. Forecast highs were between 62 and 66, and lows between 43 and 53 in coastal areas, and 35 and 45 in inland areas.

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The cloud cover is expected to thicken Sunday, as the first of three storms queued up to sweep through the area, bringing rain as soon as Sunday evening, Shigehara said.

The second storm was forecast to arrive in the middle of the week, and the third at the end of the week.

“Sadly, these storms don’t bring much rain,” Shigehara said, comparing them to the storm that passed through two weeks ago.

Interstate 8 through the mountains remained open Friday, but drivers were required to carry chains and could be asked to put them on, California Highway Patrol spokesman Joe Roque said. Chains were required on California 76 approaching Palomar Mountain.

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The storm dropped 4 inches of snow on Palomar Mountain as of Friday afternoon.

“There’s plenty of snow for playing and sledding and all that kind of stuff,” Mother’s Kitchen manager Curt Corcoran said. “It’ll get kind of crazy.”

Corcoran said he expects more than 1,600 visitors this weekend to the mountain, where the restaurant is situated.

Only trace amounts of snow fell in Julian, where the streets were “wet and slushy” Friday afternoon. But the inch of wet snow was sure to attract families anyway.

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“We’ll have big crowds come up just to see it and throw a few snowballs,” Julian Goldrush Hotel Manager Jerry Edwards said.

An additional 2 to 3 inches of snow was expected to fall on San Diego mountains Friday night, with the snow level dropping to 3,000 feet.

Friday’s storm dropped 5 inches of new snow at Mt. Laguna, atop 6 inches already on the ground there.

Ski shops across the county reported brisk rentals of downhill skis for freshly powdered mountain resorts throughout the state.

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“Literally from the first minute I walked in this morning,” REI store supervisor Seth Bekenstein said, “I’ve been getting calls all day (about the snow).”

The store rented out 75 pairs of downhill and cross-country skis Friday, and expected to sell out by the end of the day, Bekenstein said, adding that it was the busiest the store has been in several weeks.

The latest storm brings the total rainfall for the season to 6.14 inches, just 1.32 inches shy of normal, according to the National Weather Service.

Other rainfall amounts around the county on Friday were 0.12 of an inch at Fallbrook, 0.27 at Escondido, 0.09 at Oceanside, 0.04 at Montgomery Field, 0.40 at National City, 0.30 at Alpine and 0.03 of an inch at Chula Vista.

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