Southern California mountains see season’s first snow, with another storm forecast for next week
Southern California mountains saw the first snowfall of the season Thursday morning, as a cold front lingered over the region, bringing chilly temperatures, winds and rain.
Mountain areas from Los Angeles County to San Diego County saw up to 2 inches of snow, accompanied by winds of 20 to 30 mph, gusting up to 45 mph, according to National Weather Service meteorologists. Flurries lasted through the morning until around noon.
The conditions, with flurries and low fog, prompted the California Highway Patrol to provide escorts over the top of the Grapevine on Interstate 5 on Thursday morning, but no major slowdowns or incidents were reported.
Big Bear even experienced some lightning Thursday, said Elizabeth Schenk, meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s San Diego office, calling the phenomenon a “thundersnow.”
“It’s a thunderstorm, but instead of rain falling, it’s snow,” Schenk said. “You don’t see that much around here, so it can be pretty exciting.”
Thursday morning saw “some fairly heavy showers and snow showers,” Schenk said.
Across the region, temperatures Thursday ranged from the mid-50s to low 70s, with high winds — especially along the coast — making the air even chillier. Mountain areas were 20 to 30 degrees cooler than usual Thursday, she said, with highs near Big Bear reaching the mid-30s.
Thursday was “definitely going to be the coldest day of the week for sure,” Schenk said. “We are expecting to rebound a little [Friday], but temperatures are still going to be below normal everywhere.”
Winds are expected to push moisture offshore, drying out Southern California and making conditions even chillier, the National Weather Service said.
Mammoth Mountain will open for skiing on Saturday, six days sooner than it had planned to begin its winter season.
A freeze watch was issued for Thursday night into Friday morning for the Antelope Valley and across other areas north into Ventura County, including the Ojai Valley, with temperatures falling as low at 28 degrees.
Morning temperatures in the 40s are expected in the Los Angeles Basin and valleys, with the Santa Clarita Valley expected to see temperatures in the 30s.
The Malibu coast and Santa Monica Mountains are under a wind advisory starting Thursday afternoon through Friday morning, with gusts up to 40 mph expected, according to the National Weather Service. The Santa Clarita Valley is under a similar wind advisory, with high gusts expected from Thursday morning through early Friday.
Winds were high down the coastline, Schenk said, with Huntington Beach seeing 35-mph winds early Thursday, and San Clemente beaches recording gusts up to 50 mph.
Much of the region’s non-snow precipitation tapered off by Thursday morning, though forecasts show new storms moving into the region early next week will probably bring more rain.
Some areas saw relatively substantial rainfall this week, almost 2 inches in the northern Inland Empire’s Lytle Creek Canyon, and 1.26 inches at the San Gabriel Dam in northern Los Angeles County, records show.
The rain is “pretty much over with, today’s just a few snow showers up in the mountains,” Boldt said Thursday. But by Monday and Tuesday of next week, Boldt said a new system is expected to move into the area, bringing a good chance of rain, as well as more winds and cooler temperatures.
“This could be a persistent rain right into Wednesday,” Boldt said.
Some climate experts are optimistic about the back-to-back storms bringing relatively consistent perception to California’s drought-starved terrain.
David Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, noted the increased precipitation across the state could have many positive benefits — especially if it continues to bring steady rain without intense storms — including putting an end to fire season in Northern California.
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