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From heat and fires to hail and thunder, Southern California hit by wild weather swings

A man wipes accumulated hail off the hood of his car
A lifeguard cleans hail off his car in the parking lot at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena on Tuesday. Lightning, rain and hail hit Southern California just days after an unseasonable heat wave and a pair of brush fires.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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Days after an unseasonable heat wave helped spark a pair of brush fires, a storm system brought chilly temperatures, hail and thunder to Southern California on Tuesday.

Light rain fell over low-lying areas of the Los Angeles Basin while residents from Brentwood to Pasadena reported small bits of hail falling, including around the Rose Bowl, where the blanket of white made some wonder whether it had snowed.

Snow fell at higher elevations such as Pearblossom and Frazier Park.

By dusk, most of the storm had moved out of the area, and Angelenos were greeted by a shimmering red-and-gold sunset through the dissipating clouds.

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Temperatures in the area dipped into the 50s and 60s — marking a dramatic swing from record-daily highs set just days ago, including 88 degrees in Burbank and 85 degrees at Los Angeles International Airport on Super Bowl Sunday.

Tuesday’s lower temperatures were a return to normal for this time of year, according to Mike Wofford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. The average high temperature for the date is about 66 degrees.

“Our big high-pressure ridge from last week is gone, and we have a cold, low-pressure system that’s working its way south through the state,” Wofford said.

The abrupt change in weather caught some off guard.

Max S., a Pasadena resident who declined to provide his last name, said he was driving on the 134 Freeway on Tuesday afternoon when he noticed heavy traffic and exited near the Rose Bowl, where he saw 3 to 4 inches of accumulated hail on the ground.

“It was unusual to say the least,” said Max, who has lived in Southern California since 2012. “I’ve never seen anything stick like that here in L.A.”

He picked up his 2-year-old son, Isaac, from day care, and the pair headed to the Rose Bowl, where they played in the hail.

“We were both enjoying it,” Max said. “I got a kick out of it.”

A man runs with hail on the ground
A man runs on ground covered in hail in Pasadena.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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The wintry conditions marked a stark contrast from the weekend, when temperatures hit 90 degrees while he visited the Rose Bowl Flea Market, he said.

Along with cooler air, the system brought some light showers and snow in mountain areas, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service did not have snowfall totals Tuesday evening, and preliminary data showed rainfall was negligible.

Two people walk at sunset near the beach under dark clouds
Two people make their way along the Strand in Manhattan Beach on Tuesday evening after several minutes of lightning and rain. L.A. County beaches were briefly closed because of the lightning.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

No area around Los Angeles saw more than 0.3 inches of rain, and many had seen less than a tenth of an inch by about 4:30 p.m., according to weather service statistics.

Authorities did not receive any reports of major damage because of the storm, Lisa Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said Tuesday night.

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The system brought a variety of weather phenomena to Southern California.

The weather service’s San Diego office reported snow falling during thunderstorms in the mountains about 3:30 p.m.

Spotters reported a haboob, a kind of dust storm generated by sinking air from a thunderstorm, near the California-Nevada border, according to the weather service’s Las Vegas office.

A winter weather advisory was issued for portions of the Los Angeles County mountains through 10 p.m. Tuesday, with total snow accumulations of 5 inches possible above 5,000 feet and winds of up to 50 mph.

Though the cool-down marks a turnabout after a weeklong heat wave, it will be short-lived. By Thursday and Friday, temperatures will climb back into the 70s, with yet another dry Santa Ana wind event likely to blow through, forecasters said.

The winds last week helped fuel a pair of unseasonable Southern California fires, including the 150-acre Emerald fire near Laguna Beach and the 7-acre Sycamore fire, which destroyed two homes near Whittier.

Though Los Angeles’ precipitation is slightly above average for the water year, almost all of that moisture came during December’s storms.

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January and February — the height of Southern California’s rainy season — have proved troublingly dry, leading some officials to express concern that fire conditions are shifting from seasonal to year-round.

Fortunately, Wofford said, the weather on Wednesday — the day of the much-anticipated Rams Super Bowl championship parade in the Exposition Park area — should be pleasantly unremarkable.

“It should be clear skies and quite nice,” he said. “I don’t think the weather is going to be anything people are going to be talking about.”

Times staff writer Christian Martinez contributed to this report.

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