Powerful storm brings road closures and record rainfall to Southern California

Visitors to the Bolsa Chica Wetlands enjoy a chilly, blustery day beneath puffy clouds and a backdrop of the snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The storm moved out, but the traffic troubles remain.

The heavy rainstorm that closed the Grapevine for a while Saturday continued to cause problems on some mountain roads. In the San Bernardino Mountains, Highway 38 was closed for several hours overnight due to snow that stranded about 100 cars, according to Caltrans. The cars managed to get out and the highway near Big Bear is now open.

Highway 33 was closed north of Ojai early Sunday because of snow and ice.

The storm, the second of two systems that dumped rain in the drought-plagued region, left an inch or more of precipitation in some areas. Together, the fronts helped make December the wettest in Los Angeles in six years, with 4.08 inches of rain — 265% above normal, according to the National Weather Service.

New rain records for the day were set at Los Angeles International Airport (0.96 inches), Long Beach Airport (1.07) and Camarillo (1.6), among other places.


Overall, the region got between 0.75 and 2.5 inches of rain, weather service meteorologist Curt Kaplan said.

The storm “left its mark,” Kaplan said. “We had quite a punch.”

Southern California has experienced several years of record dry conditions, so the pair of storms has provided a welcome relief to many. Some experts think the storms are a precursor of wetter weather later in the winter.

After dropping a friend at LAX airport, Mike Che, from West Hollywood, stopped at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area to take in the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, CA, following a winter storm, Christmas Eve morning.
After dropping a friend at LAX airport, Mike Che, from West Hollywood, stopped at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area to take in the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, CA, following a winter storm, Christmas Eve morning.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times )

The overnight front moved in with force, flooding streets and causing some power outages. Mudslides closed the California Incline in Santa Monica and jammed traffic on Interstate 15 through the Cajon Pass. Firefighters rescued a man in a floating device in the Los Angeles River near Glassell Park, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Modest mudflows also were reported in some hillside communities hit by wildfires earlier this year, but no major damage was immediately reported. Kaplan said mud and debris came down hills in Duarte early Saturday, temporarily prompting a flash-flood warning.

Nicholson said CHP officers responded to two mudslides. One occurred late Friday near Soledad Canyon and Capra roads in Santa Clarita; the other forced a closure near Sloan Canyon and Hasley Canyon roads in Castaic — about five miles from where CHP officers were escorting traffic through the Grapevine on Saturday.


One local news reporter tweeted that some motorists who bypassed the Grapevine traffic were instead getting stuck in the mud.

The snow level fell to 3,000 feet, forcing the temporary closure of the Grapevine as well as traffic alerts on some mountain roads.

In Kern County, Frazier Park and Pine Mountain Club got between 4 and 6 inches of snow, the NWS said. Mountain High got as much as 16 inches, while Big Bear Mountain Resort received between 12 and 18 inches of fresh powder, its website said.

The most-recent storm moved south and east out of the area around 8 a.m. Saturday, bringing sunny skies with highs expected in the 60s. Partly cloudy skies with highs around 60 in L.A. are expected Christmas Day.

Despite the storms, Southern California remains under severe drought conditions, even as Northern California begins to rebound.

Steady rain since the beginning of October has pulled 30% of the state — almost all areas of Northern California — out of drought conditions, according to National Weather Service and U.S. Drought Monitor reports. The rains have helped revive reservoirs that feed the two massive systems that move water from the northern Sierra into cities and farmlands.



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8:15 a.m. Dec. 25: This post was updated with new details.

10:55 a.m.: This article was updated with new information about traffic in the Grapevine and new details and reaction about the storm.


7:30 a.m.: This article was updated with details about mudflows.

7 a.m.: This article was updated with rainfall totals.

This article was originally published at 5:50 a.m. Dec. 24.