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Snow Caps the Picture

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The sky was up to its old tricks and even offered up some new ones Wednesday, as Orange County was hit with a combination of hail, wind, clouds, sun--and even snow.

The latest storm that dumped rain on most of the region brought a sprinkling of snow on lower-than-normal elevations, including Saddleback Peak, which was dusted with a fine coat.

“Everybody was talking about it,” said Selman Cuna, a cashier at a Mobil gas station on Rancho Santa Margarita Parkway, which provided an especially good view. “They came in and said, ‘Did you see the snow?’ They looked like they were happy about it.”

Employees at a nearby Starbucks also enjoyed the vista.

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“It’s beautiful,” manager Debbie Burnett said. “I’ve never seen so much snow on the mountain. The mountains are a deep, deep bluish purple, and it makes the snow stand out even more.”

Elsewhere, hail fell on parts of Laguna Nigel, Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano.

“It was insanity,” said Jerad Hasson, an employee at the San Juan Hills Golf Club pro shop. “We just had the greens covered in white. It looked like New York City.”

Hasson may have been taken aback, but some of his customers were unfazed.

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“At 11:30, before it started, we had at least 30 golfers out there,” Hasson said. “Most of them took cover, but there were five or 10 who stuck it out. I don’t know how they could have putted on the greens.”

Parts of South County also got a drenching along with the hail, while in north Orange County the sky was mostly cloudy but the sun poked through on occasion.

Wet weather has become routine this El Nino season, but the sight of hailstones was a new wrinkle.

The recipe for hail includes cold fronts and quickly changing weather, said John Sherwin, a meteorologist for WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.

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“In California, you need very cold air above the ground and weather instability,” he said. “This can really happen during the early spring, when you may have those low temperatures.”

In the past week, Orange County has seen widely varying but cooler than normal temperatures. There also has been moderate rainfall, ranging from 1.17 inches in El Toro between March 21 and April 1 to 3.65 inches in San Juan Capistrano, according to WeatherData.

The agency predicted generally dry and sunny weather for today with some scattered clouds. There is a chance of more showers on Friday, possibly lasting into Saturday morning, but the rest of the weekend looks clear.


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