Hail, water spouts, huge downpours as storm moves in

People walk across the UCLA campus in the rain.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

A winter storm sweeping through Southern California on Sunday brought scattered showers, hail and thunderstorms, while ski resorts have prepared for up to a foot of snow.

Parts of Ventura County saw up to half an inch of rain per hour, prompting a flash flood warning for the central county for much of the evening.

Heavy downpours in parts of Los Angeles County are expected to cause minor flooding, but rainfall has been isolated: Santa Monica saw 1.35 inches of rain on Sunday afternoon, but Beverly Hills saw about a quarter of an inch during the same time period. There were also reports of water spouts off the coast in the Santa Monica Bay.


Where rain was limited, residents saw dramatic skylines of ominous clouds mixed with bursts of sun.

The Big Bear area is under a winter storm warning, with around a foot of snow possible at higher elevations, according to the National Weather Service. That is welcome news for resort operators, who have been struggling with a dry season.

The snow level could also drop to 3,500 feet at the Grapevine at the Kern County line, creating treacherous conditions for drivers on Interstate 5.

Near the base of the Mt. Baldy ski lift, slushy snow brought out throngs of visitors Sunday afternoon.

“It’s not about how much snow there is. It’s the adventure of it. We’re trying to build memories for them,” said Ray Gonzalez, a Long Beach police sergeant who brought his 6-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter to the slopes for an afternoon snowball fight and sledding.

A second, weaker storm is expected to pass through Southern California on Monday afternoon and evening.

But the rain will not put much of a dent in the state’s lingering drought.

“If we don’t have a March miracle, this will be the fourth really disappointing year in a row,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

”Right now it’s enough to make my cactus smile and to green everything up,” he said. “But we would need an inch a day for the next 30 days to make a dent in this drought … Let’s get right down to it, this is puny.”

Patzert said that since July 1, the Los Angeles area has received about 6.4 inches of rain

“That is about 59% of where we should be at,” he said. “We should be over 10 inches by now.”

Patzert said it’s possible if the region doesn’t get more rain in March there could be some water rationing this summer.

Meanwhile, a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County was shut down in both directions early Sunday after a mudslide, authorities said.

The slide occurred about 4:30 a.m., prompting the road’s closure between Calleguas Creek and Mugu Rock.

The roadway is not expected to reopen until about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, but unexpected downpours could trigger a new round of mudslides, officials warned.

A nine-mile stretch of the highway -- between Las Posas and Yerba Buena roads -- just reopened Friday after being closed in late November because of mud and rock slides. The months-long road closure was necessary to stabilize the road and make sure drivers were safe, California Highway Patrol officials said.

Twitter: @cindychangLA

Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.