Storm blocks roads, brings snow, rain
LA QUINTA, Calif. — From the inland deserts to the hills of Los Angeles County and north to the Sierra Nevada mountains, California endured bizarre winter weather on Friday from a massive storm pushing through the West Coast.
Those in Southern California could see snow creeping from the hills to the valley floor Friday morning as residents described the strangest weather on record.
“This is probably the strangest winter we’ve had,” said Mindy Kelley, who is from Oregon but has wintered in Palm Springs for 25 years. “The wind gusts we experienced were probably the strongest we have ever seen. The cold and the winds together are like nothing we have felt here that I can remember.”
Low temperatures of up to 40 degrees were expected in the region over the weekend. Meanwhile, 3 million Californians awoke Friday morning to a winter storm warning stemming from the storm that rolled into the Golden State for the first time the previous day, leaving more than 100,000 customers without power.
“The craziest part is that you could see everything from this storm,” Fox Weather meteorologist Amy Freeze told USA TODAY. “We’ve talked about blizzard warnings, we’ve talked about flash flooding, but we can also get severe thunderstorms this morning.”
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Up to 5 feet of snow can fall in some mountains near Los Angeles, creating whiteout conditions with wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour. According to forecasters, the conditions increase the risk of avalanches.
The San Diego Weather Service issued its first-ever snowstorm warning for mountain areas like Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead and Wrightwood through Saturday.
Heavy snow wasn’t the only concern in California. Forecasters say they are concerned about torrential rains causing flash flooding in downtown LA, where parts of the city are expecting up to 8 inches of rain, according to AccuWeather.
“In urban areas where we have a lot of concrete, the water flows very, very quickly. And when there’s too much of it and it can’t drain, suddenly you have puddles in the streets and intersections,” she said.
Central and northern California are at risk of damaging thunderstorms, gale force winds and waterspouts — which are tornadoes over water — which can come ashore as land pants, Freeze said.
Here’s what you need to know about the weather on Friday:
Unusual cold poses challenges for homeless people in Palm Springs
Homeless people in Palm Springs brace for an uncharacteristically cold weekend of wind and rain in the Coachella Valley.
“Last night was so cold and windy it felt like trying to sleep through a tsunami,” said Cheryl Shannon, 62, who lives in her car in Palm Springs. The windows of the car are broken, letting cold air in at night.
Last year’s annual homeless census identified 222 vulnerable homeless people in Palm Springs, the second-highest number in the county after the city of Riverside, with only 15 shelters available.
Julian Garza, 54, said he planned to stay at the shelter tonight because of the cold weather but hasn’t stayed there regularly since it opened because “the capacity here is limited and I don’t want to take a spot that could go.” to someone older.”
But after waking up one morning this week to find both of his sleeping bags “crystallized and stiff” with ice, he decided to try and secure a place to sleep tonight.
Michael Lee May, 60, has slept most nights at the shelter since it opened in early January, arriving promptly at 4:15 p.m. to queue for a bed. He said there are more than 20 people in line most nights. He’s not sure where he or others might go when the winter quarters closes at the end of the month.
“Right now it’s really cold and there’s really no good place to go,” he said.
He’s heard about some people sleeping across the street in the airport, but is wary after hearing the police will start subpoenas.
close mudslides Grapevine Highway near Santa Clarita; Portions of I-80 closed
Portions of Interstate 5 near Santa Clarita, referred to as the Grapevine, were closed Friday afternoon due to a mudslide and snow, the state Department of Transportation said. Running northwest of LA, the highway is a vital link between the northern and southern parts of the state.
Portions of the Grapevine were closed Thursday night due to heavy snowfall, the department said on Facebook.
Northeast of LA, portions of State Route 2 along the Angeles Crest Highway were closed Friday morning, the department said on Twitter.
In Northern California, poor visibility has resulted in road closures along Interstate 80, a major east-west corridor connecting San Francisco, Sacramento and Reno, Nevada.
Truckers attempting to navigate portions of I-80 that were open Friday were screened to make sure their tires were fitted with the correct chains, according to the state transportation department.
Ventura County prepares for flooding
Evacuation warnings were issued through Saturday morning in Ventura County for areas considered unstable after they were hit by storms that killed more than a dozen people in the past month.
Mountain areas in Ventura County had received up to 3 inches of rain through Friday morning, and crews monitored flooding hotspots on the roads.
“We just watch hour after hour,” Dave Fleisch, the county’s assistant director of public works, told the Ventura Country Star, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Local residents lined the streets with sandbags Friday morning as the county expects the heaviest rain later on Friday.
Some of the heaviest rains have stalled over Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties, said Ryan Kittell, a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, Calif. The Santa Barbara band is expected to move into Ventura County later Friday afternoon or evening, he said.
If that happens, the county will see the brunt of the “very cold” storm. By Friday night, intense rainy spells could reach half an inch to an inch an hour.
“We’re expecting quite a lot of flooding over the roads developing, if not sooner, certainly by tonight,” Kittell said.
5 feet of snow expected in Big Bear
The winter storm could dump up to 5 feet of snow in Big Bear, about two hours northeast of Los Angeles, said Bob Larson, chief meteorologist at AccuWeather.
Sustained winds are expected to reach 25 to 35 mph, with gusts of between 50 and 60 mph, making travel “very difficult to impossible,” the weather service said.
“This storm is not to be taken lightly!” the city of Big Bear Lake said in a tweet. “Stay home. Stay warm. Stay safe.”
Snow hits the Hollywood sign in LA
There was a faint trail of ice and snow on the hills surrounding the famous Hollywood sign in LA on Friday, according to Fox Weather forecaster Freeze.
“It’s almost, you think, special effects, isn’t it?” said Frost. “We’re in the middle of a movie, someone is making snow on the Hollywood sign. But that was real life.”
Nearby in the San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. Wilson — which sits at a lower elevation than the Hollywood sign — expects an accumulation of over an inch of snow by Friday night.
In higher elevations of the county and northern Ventura counties, winds can blow up to 80 mph (130 km/h), with 2 to 5 feet of snow over 4,000 feet and up to 8 feet of snow in areas like Mount Baldy, the highest peak in the Los Angeles County and a popular destination for hikers, skiers and mountaineers.
Mount Baldy Resort closed its slopes and said on Twitter that it “will be doing bananas Friday night.”
“Stay tuned in, it’s probably going to be weird,” the resort said.
The region is also expecting a significant amount of rain at lower elevations, with flood warnings in place Friday morning through Saturday afternoon.
Greater Los Angeles could see 2 to 4 inches of rain, Larson said, while a flood warning issued by the National Weather Service warned of precipitation rates of up to an inch an hour, particularly in the foothills and lower mountainous regions.
California winter storm map
National Weather Radar
Featuring: Cheri Carlson, Ventura County Star; Associated Press