More rain coming to SoCal through Wednesday after epic snowstorm moves out
A storm system for the ages passed through Southern California on Saturday, dumping piles of snow in lower-elevation communities, closing key roads and leaving residents used to the region’s dry, warm climate with a rare sense of icy wonder.
The frigid conditions dropped the snow level to 1,500 or less on Saturday, enough for snowball fights, snowman building and the unusual sight of foothills covered with a white dusting. Mountain communities were slammed by intense snowfall.
As of Sunday morning, Interstate 5 through the Grapevine was still closed due to snow, along with many mountain roads.
Cold, unsettled conditions were expected to continue, with more rain possible Sunday night and through Wednesday due to weak storm activity, according to the National Weather Service. Total rainfall was predicted to be between a half inch to one inch, with snow levels falling to 3,500-4,500 feet.
That is nothing compared to the storm that moved out Saturday. It left dramatic vistas of snow-capped mountains Sunday morning as the sun came out.
“This has been one of the more impressive storms in the last few years here in Southern California,” said Rich Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, particularly because of its rainfall records and low-snow levels, including reports of flurries at the Hollywood sign Thursday. “It’s a storm we haven’t seen very often in our careers here so far.”
And that was fine for many.
Heavy snow was still falling in Acton on Saturday afternoon, where 40-year-old Edgar Corona brought his two kids to enjoy the day playing in the snow.
“It’s something we’ve never really experienced,” he said as white powder coated the hood and rooftop of his black Honda Civic. “So I brought them here, it’s been pretty great.”
Reports of power outages, grounded flights and road closures rang out through the Southland as the plume of frigid moisture traveled a southeastern path. Lightning prompted the closure of several beaches from Los Angeles to San Diego — including all beaches in L.A. County — where officials warned of potential strikes along the coast and over the ocean through midnight Saturday.
Rescue crews came to the aid of several people, including a 61-year-old man hoisted to safety from a dirt island in the Tujunga wash Saturday morning and two homeless men stranded amid water that had risen in Hansen Dam, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.
Four homeless people, along with four dogs and a cat, were also rescued from a remote area of land within the heavily flooded Sepulveda Basin late Friday night, LAFD said. Two of the people were suffering from hypothermia and taken to a hospital.
Scenes from across Southern California, where a powerful winter storm dumped heaps of snow and record-setting rain.
“Quite a remarkable storm the last few days with historic amounts of precipitation and snow down to elevations that rarely see snow,” the National Weather Service said of the winter rarity, which dropped fresh powder at elevations even lower than 1,500 feet over the course of its run, including in Sunland-Tujunga.
The storm, which had already dumped snow on Northern California, set multiple records in and around Los Angeles on Friday, including 4.61 inches of rain near Hollywood Burbank Airport — its fifth wettest day ever, according to Thompson.
Daily rainfall records were also set at Los Angeles International Airport, which received 2.04 inches, and in Lancaster with 0.78 of an inch, Camarillo with 1.43 inches, Oxnard with 2.04 inches and Santa Maria with 2.61 inches, Thompson said, calling it “very impressive stuff.”
The unusual system also dropped heavy snow on mountain areas, especially elevations above 4,500 feet. Mountain High resort in Wrightwood received 65 inches of fresh powder in 24 hours, Thompson said, with the potential for an additional foot Saturday.
However, the brunt of the storm had passed the Los Angeles area by Saturday morning, Thompson said, with lighter showers in the forecast heading into Sunday.
As a historic storm rolled into Southern California and shelters filled up, many homeless people used whatever they could — fires, tarps, public restrooms, hand dryers — to stay dry and warm.
The weakening system spurred a number of dramatic rescues and dangerous situations during its run. In Ojai, a rescue helicopter roared over Ladera Ridge Road at about 10:30 p.m. Friday, when a woman was trapped in a dip in the road amid rapidly rushing water.
Video shared by the Ventura County Fire Department shows a rescue swimmer dropping down from the helicopter via a long cable, landing on the roof of the car, and guiding the woman out from the driver’s side. She held on tight as the helicopter swung both of them over to dry land, where other firefighters helped receive them.
A call for help went out again 30 minutes later, at about 11 p.m., this time at the mouth of the Ventura River. Two men were stuck on an island that had formed in the middle of the river mouth, as rushing water rose on all sides.
A team of firefighters was able to rescue them with a long ladder, said Jeremy Henderson, battalion chief for the city of Ventura’s Fire Department. He urged the public on Saturday to remain alert for rising water.
“Don’t go through any moving water, it’s extremely dangerous,” he said. “Just 12 inches can take your vehicle off the road.”
Antelope Valley residents arose Saturday to an unfamiliar sight when snow blanketed parks, lawns and surrounding desert brush.
Still, some Southern Californians reveled in the novel appearance of wintry weather. On a snow-covered hilltop in the Ana Verdes Hills neighborhood, Steven Lopez, 10, constructed a snowman as tall as himself while his siblings, Chelsea and Brandon, took turns sledding through desert shrubs. Their father, Arnan Lopez, took in the beauty of the snow-covered hilltops.
“Back then we had to drive two hours to Big Bear. Now, it’s our backyard,” Lopez said, describing Saturday as “a perfect day.”
Some ski resorts similarly celebrated the snowfall — even as the storm made getting to them difficult or impossible. The roads to and from Big Bear mountain resorts were closed Saturday, but the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit properties were open to visitors who were in town before the closures.
Things were quieter than usual, with snow falling steadily through the morning, said spokesman Justin Kanton.
“It’s kind of a bubble right now,” he said. “We’re kind of in our own little snow globe.”
Similarly, in Mammoth Lakes, U.S. Route 395 has been closed in both directions for two days. But Mammoth Mountain resort was open Saturday.
“Who else is going skiing in Berkeley?” asked Jay Sayre, who seized on the rare low-elevation snow just minutes from UC Berkeley as much of the region woke up to fresh snow Friday morning.
The storm snarled traffic too. Interstate 5 remained closed in the Grapevine area from Tejon Pass to Parker Road due to wintry conditions Saturday, the California Department of Transportation said. In the city, the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 were closed around Laurel Canyon Boulevard because of flooding.
Other closures in the area include portions of State Route 138, as well as State Routes 2 and 39 in the Angeles National Forest, Caltrans said. The storm also brought arriving flights to LAX to a halt late Friday night and into Saturday, airport officials said.
Between midnight and noon Saturday, 37 flights were canceled and 182 flights were “on a major delay,” spokeswoman Victoria Spilabotte said Saturday afternoon.
The storm also prompted power outages affecting North Hollywood, Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Jefferson Park and other areas, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said, with tens of thousands of customers still without service Saturday afternoon. The agency said it could take up to 48 hours to respond and make repairs in some areas.
“While we know this is an extended period of time and a significant inconvenience for our customers, we want to assure everyone affected that we’re working hard to get power restored,” DWP senior assistant general manager Brian Wilbur said in a statement. “The weather, crew safety and the complexity of some repairs related to downed trees will largely determine how quickly we are able to get power restored.”
Southern California Edison’s outage map also showed more than 10,000 customers without power in Southern California, including about 5,500 in L.A. County.
“This storm is widespread and impacting many of SCE’s customers and communities, from Catalina Island to Lake Arrowhead and from the Grapevine to Mammoth,” spokesman Reggie Kumar said.
The incoming storm won’t be the first time Southern California has seen snow, but it will mark a highly unusual weather pattern for the region.
Another series of weaker storms is due to hit the area beginning Monday, forecasters said. And while the current system is weakening, officials warned residents to remain vigilant as soggy, snowy and potentially dangerous conditions could persist.
In San Diego, two people were rescued Saturday morning from a partially submerged vehicle just north of the San Diego International Airport, where lifeguards helped pull the pair to safety.
In Castaic, two motor homes in an RV park were swept into the Santa Clara River shortly after midnight Saturday when an embankment collapsed, according to Sgt. Keith Greene of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. Large chunks of land were still seen crumbling into the swollen river Saturday morning, and the area was without power because an electric cable along the embankment had washed away.
No one was injured, and the area along the riverbank was evacuated, Greene said, but water levels remained too high to try to recover the two trailer homes.
In other areas, however, conditions were already beginning to change.
Caroline Brown, a 73-year-old Lancaster resident, said she was hoping for heavy rain to spare her from having to go out in the cold and walk her Jack Russell terrier, Luna.
But the monster storm was beginning to break, revealing a blue sky.
“It was wonderful,” Brown said of the storm. “We need more of it.”
Times staff writers Paloma Esquivel and Roger Vincent contributed to this report.
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