Southland Storms Show No Signs of Leaving Town

Times Staff Writers

Another powerful storm from Alaska battered Southern California on Monday, dropping heavy snow that shut Interstate 5 near Gorman for more than a day and snarling traffic with rain that boosted the season’s rainfall total in Los Angeles to almost four times normal.

By nightfall, the storm had dumped as much as 5 inches of rain on some parts of Southern California, and forecasters said that figure could double by tonight. In Orange County, rainfall amounts Monday ranged from 0.5-inch across much of the area to 1.15 inches in Laguna Beach, according to meteorologist Dan Atkin of the National Weather Service.

Flash-flood watches and winter storm warnings were issued throughout the Southland, as forecasters said the cold and rainy weather should linger through today, slackening only briefly before another storm front moves into California late this week.


“We’re getting hit by a deep weather system off the coast that just doesn’t want to go away,” said Dan Keeton, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “It keeps pumping in cold air from the north and moist air from the south. When you mix those two, you get floods.”

The storm total by 4 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles was 1.57 inches. It raised the total for the season, which runs from July 1 through June 30, to 15.47 inches. That’s almost four times the normal season’s total for the date of 3.96 inches. It’s also more than L.A.’s average for a year, 14.7 inches.

But Keeton said it still wasn’t enough to end the West’s drought, which began seven years ago. “It provides some relief, but a drought is a multiyear problem,” Keeton said. “One year of good rain doesn’t mean a full recovery.”

Other storm totals by 4 p.m. Monday included 5.39 inches at Refugio Pass in Santa Barbara County, 3.75 inches in Malibu, 0.95 in San Diego and 0.87 in Newport Beach.

Monday’s heavy snow delighted the operators of mountain ski resorts, but it caused the California Highway Patrol to close a 40-mile stretch of I-5 in the Tehachapi Mountains about 2:30 a.m. Monday. Officials expected to assess this morning whether to reopen the interstate.

The state’s major north-south artery remained impassable throughout the day as California Department of Transportation crews struggled to clear up to 3 feet of snow from the road. Plows had removed most of the snow by nightfall, but ice on the pavement kept the highway closed.


Officer Francisco Villalobos, a CHP spokesman, said the heavy snow was unusual for the pass, which usually receives only a few inches during winter storms.

“I don’t recall when we’ve had that much snow,” Villalobos said.

Traffic from I-5 was diverted to U.S. 101 along the coast and inland along Highways 14, 58 and 99. Dozen of smaller roads in the Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains were blocked by snow. Forecasters said the snow level could drop to 2,000 feet before dawn today.

The rain triggered a lot of spinouts and fender-benders during the morning commute, but there were no reports of traffic fatalities. Slick roads contributed to traffic collisions on freeways and streets of Orange County, but there were no major injuries, officials said. “It hasn’t been too bad,” said Mike Sheldon, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.

Runoff flooding closed the southbound Long Beach Freeway for five hours near Pacific Coast Highway, and a rockslide slowed commuter traffic on Malibu Canyon Road. .

Forecasters said the rain and snow should end by Wednesday morning, resuming late Thursday with the approach of another storm. Rain and snow are likely Friday and possible Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the weather service said.

Times staff writers Seema Mehta and Mai Tran and Associated Press contributed to this report.