Intense winter storm brings a rare wondrous landscape to parts of California

A woman and boy stand in snow in front of snow-capped trees.
Valeria Roman, 23, left, and her 5-year-old-son, Emiliano India Roman, play in freshly fallen snow on Haven Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Feb. 27. I’m Ryan Fonseca, back from vacation.

For many Californians, a day in the snow means a hours-long trek up to the mountains. But this weekend, the winter staple made house calls in neighborhoods that haven’t seen snow in decades.

A historic winter storm dropped snow as low as 1,500 feet.

“This has been one of the more impressive storms in the last few years here in Southern California,” Rich Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, told Times reporters. “It’s a storm we haven’t seen very often in our careers here so far.”

Building a snowman isn’t typical weekend fun in Glendale, but residents in the foothills north of the 210 Freeway got that opportunity Saturday as snow fell in Dunsmore Park.

A man and child kneel down as they build a snowman in a park.
Father Brendan Prouty, 42, left, and his daughter, Charlotte Prouty, 7, build a snowman in Glendale’s Dunsmore Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Parts of the Inland Empire also got some winter wonder this weekend. Residents in Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga took advantage of fresh powder to throw snowballs and dust off plastic sleds.

A man kneels as a child sleds down a small hill of snow.
Andy Galaviz, 34, left, plays with his children Andrew Galaviz, 8, and Leah Galaviz, 5, on their snow-covered front yard in Rancho Cucamonga.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Snow also blanketed parts of the high desert — a rare delight that usually happens once every several years (I remember a handful of snowfalls while growing up out there).

The snow also closed some major freeways, including Interstate 5 through the Grapevine and the 14 Freeway between Palmdale and Santa Clarita, though Caltrans announced both had been cleared and were back open as of Sunday afternoon. Several other roads in and around the mountains remained closed or had limited access.

Other parts of SoCal saw record rainfall, along with thunderstorms and some hail. I can confirm that in the San Fernando Valley, the sky rumbled and hail began bouncing off my car just as I prepared to drive home to the San Gabriel Valley at midday Saturday.

A man stands on his car which is partially submerged in floodwater on a street with several other cars in the background.
A driver who ignored a road closure and stranded cars got stuck on flooded Vineland Avenue in North Hollywood.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Flooding was an issue at lower elevations. Times photographers captured cars partly submerged in stormwater on local freeways and surface streets.

Up north in the Bay Area, at least one Berkeley resident got out his skis and hit the slopes of Tilden Park in the nearby hills. To the east, the snowfall shut down Yosemite National Park, which will remain closed through March 1.

And the wet weather isn’t over yet. Another storm rolled into Southern California overnight Sunday and is expected to linger through Wednesday, though forecasters say it’ll be weaker than its predecessor. The mountains and foothills are expected to get up to 2 inches of rain, while coastal and valley areas could receive up to an inch. Snow won’t fall as low as it did over the weekend but is expected in the 3,000- to 4,500- foot elevation range.

So keep those umbrellas handy, drive slow and stay safe out there, SoCal!

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Skyrocketing gas bills are pushing some SoCal restaurants to the brink of closure. Businesses that require gas cooking methods — such as tabletop Korean barbecues and wok stations — are now spending thousands of dollars more than their typical expenses. “It just doesn’t end,” one chef-owner told Times reporters. “When are we going to get relief?” Los Angeles Times

The San Gabriel Nursery and Florist is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Japanese American family who founded the business overcame racist laws, internment during World War II and arson, but their garden continues to bloom. Los Angeles Times

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A court ruling has halted UC Berkeley from building badly needed student housing at People’s Park, citing “errors” in the environmental review process. The decision could create new paths to block development using the state’s environmental law. University officials said they would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. Los Angeles Times

Rep. Judy Chu and fellow House Democrats are firing back after a Republican congressman’s remarks about her loyalty to the U.S. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus put out a statement saying Rep. Lance Gooden’s (R-Texas) comments reflected racist profiling of Chinese Americans and amounted to “fear mongering [that] only further endangers our communities.” Los Angeles Times


Two L.A. County supervisors have joined calls for Probation Department Chief Adolfo Gonzales to resign. That follows the release of video of a 2020 incident in which a probation officers pinned a 17-year-old boy face-down and bent his legs while he cried for his mother. San Gabriel Valley Tribune


A four-day sweep led to 26 arrests as part of an operation to crack down on gang activity in Tulare County. That followed the massacre in January in which two suspects believed to have ties to the Norteño gang murdered six people at a home in Goshen, including a teen mother and her infant son. The Fresno Bee

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Big Bear’s famous bald eagles could be new parents any day now. Thousands have been watching a livestream of Jackie and Shadow’s snow-coverned nest above Big Bear Lake, waiting to see if their eggs hatch. Los Angeles Times

In other bird news, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the California spotted owl as endangered. The move would create new protections for the owl’s habitats in coastal and Southern California, which are threatened by logging and climate change. KQED


San Diego Unified is reviewing its rental agreement with a Scripps Ranch church after it invited a guest who spoke against being gay. The controversy has led to questions about what lines, if any, public agencies are allowed to draw in providing space for religious and other community organizations. San Diego Union-Tribune

A Bay Area nun has helped transform a gang-ridden neighborhood into a livable community for families. Using money from private donors and foundations, Sister Catherine Heltsley has bought 17 properties in North Fair Oaks, running a school, youth recreation center, food pantry and clothing program and building more than 250 affordable apartments. San Francisco Chronicle


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Today’s California landmark comes from Tim Goncharoff of Fairfield: Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz.

A morning sky over a rocky beach with silhouette of lighthouse.
Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz, photographed on an early winter morning.
(Courtesy Tim Goncharoff)

Tim writes:

[It] captures so much of what is special about California. The spectacular beauty of the Monterey Bay; the birthplace of California surfing; our continually reinvented history, from whaling to agriculture to technology and beyond — and the often tumultuous interaction between people and nature at the edge of the continent.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

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