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Coldest storm of the year could make white Christmas possible for some in Southland

Dreams of a white Christmas are likely to come true for some Southern Californians.

The second of two holiday week storms from the Gulf of Alaska is arriving on Christmas morning, bringing three-quarters to nearly 2 inches of rain along the coast and valleys and up to 3 inches in the San Gabriel Mountains.

The system, which meteorologists expect to be the coldest storm of the year, will drop snow levels low enough that the Antelope Valley and the Grapevine may see a dusting of powder, said Tom Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

The rain is expected to begin in Los Angeles during the late morning and pick up through the afternoon. The strongest rainfall is expected to hit the Southland late in the evening and overnight, Fisher said.

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A storm rolling into Southern California was bringing dangerous driving conditions to the Grapevine on Wednesday as Thanksgiving travel picked up.

“Plan to travel early tomorrow if you have to, especially if you need to go through the mountains,” Fisher said. “There’s going to be gusty east to southeast winds between 20 and 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. That means there will be snow, blowing wind, fog and low visibility.”

Fisher said people should also plan to get out those thick holiday sweaters because the storm is expected to keep temperatures chilly — in the mid-50s in most areas, which is about 10 degrees below normal for this time of year.

It’ll be even colder in the mountains, with snow levels dipping to 4,000 feet Wednesday. Big Bear and Wrightwood ski areas are expected to get up to 2½ feet of additional snow, while Idyllwild could see up to 3 feet between Wednesday and Friday.

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The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the mountains of San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Friday, warning of heavy snow that could affect the Cajon Pass, Ortega Highway and the Interstate 8 pass in San Diego County. The weather service also warned of possible delays on the Grapevine, and highways 14 and 33 because of the snow.

Wednesday’s storm comes on the heels of a system that brought heavy rain — up to 3 inches in some areas in Southern California — on Sunday and Monday. That storm led to record-breaking rainfall in Long Beach, where 1.28 inches was dumped on the coastal city Monday. The previous record of 1.07 inches for the day was set in 2016, according to the weather service.

The downpour also made living conditions for migrants staying at a shelter close to the U.S.-Mexico border even more difficult Monday as flooding and foul sewage backups soiled the Movimiento Juventud 2000 shelter.

“The stench burns your nostrils and makes you want to puke,” said Antonio Jaramillo, a Mexican migrant who is in Tijuana after being deported from the United States. “I’m pretty sure this happens every time it rains with the black water.”

The latest round of rain could exacerbate problems at the shelter, which currently has roughly 100 migrants staying in tents erected in a large indoor space.

The rain in Southern California is expected to taper off Thursday, making way for clear skies through the weekend. But don’t stash the umbrellas yet, as forecasters say more rain looks to be on the way early next week.

San Diego Union-Tribune writer Wendy Fry contributed to this report.


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