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Freeway Closed as Storm Dumps 5 Inches of Hail on Thousand Oaks

A fast-moving hail storm dumped up to five inches of ice on the Conejo Grade in Thousand Oaks on Saturday, creating snow-like conditions and forcing authorities to shut down the Ventura Freeway in both directions.

The accumulation created slippery conditions that led to several minor accidents on the freeway, the California Highway Patrol said.

CHP officials closed the freeway between Camarillo Springs Road and Wendy Drive at 4:35 p.m. for about an hour and escorted vehicles over the grade as hail battered cars and piled up on the road during the 20-minute storm.

Several motorists who were stuck in traffic by the freak weather ventured out of their cars to play, building snowmen and staging snowball fights with handfuls of the hard ice.

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“This is great,” said Jason Grant, 21, of Thousand Oaks as he scampered out of his car. “Who would have believed that it would ever snow in Southern California like this?”

Meteorologists, however, said that because the snow level was officially 2,500 feet, and the Conejo Grade is only about 700 feet above sea level, the cold white substance was probably only hail.

“While this is very unusual, this is not officially snow,” said Steve Burback, a meteorologist for WeatherData Inc. “Snow would be fluffier.”

Several minor accidents caused by accumulated hail led the CHP to close the freeway.

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