Residents of parts of Southern California who haven’t seen snow in decades awoke Sunday morning to an icy wonderland following an epic winter storm that broke rain records and spread fresh powder across the normally warm, sunny region.
The storm, which originated in the Gulf of Alaska, took advantage of an atmospheric river system — a powerful plume of moisture that can produce large amounts of precipitation. It has moved out of the region, giving Southern Californians a brief reprieve from the wet weather.
But don’t put away those umbrellas just yet. More rain and snow is on the way from late Sunday.
The frigid conditions dropped snow depths as low as 300 feet in some areas on Saturday, enough for snowball fights, snowman building and the unusual sight of foothills glistening with sparkling powder. Mountain communities were pummeled by intense snowfall, with Mountain High boasting an impressive 93 feet of snow. As of Sunday morning, Interstate 5 through the Grapevine was still closed due to snow, as were many mountain roads.
Those who say California has no seasons should think again, said Rich Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
“This is definitely much more than your run-of-the-mill Southern California winter storm,” he said. “I think this proves the point that, yes, we’ll get here again. It may not happen as often as in other parts of the country, but we sometimes have really active weather here.”
For communities that saw no snow, it rained profusely. More than 10 inches fell in Woodland Hills, while Bel-Air received 6.76 inches of rain. Downtown Los Angeles saw 4.49 inches — just over 2 inches each on Friday and Saturday. According to the National Weather Service, it was only the sixth time since 1877 that downtown received this much rain in two consecutive days.
There were reports of wind gusts at the Hollywood sign and snowfall in places like Glendale and Santa Clarita. Some families traveled to snowy areas in the Antelope Valley for a day of fun.
On a hilltop in the Ana Verdes Hills neighborhood, Steven Lopez, 10, built a snowman as tall as himself while his siblings, Chelsea and Brandon, took turns sledding through desert bushes. Their father, Arnan Lopez, took in the beauty of the snowy landscape.
“Then we had to drive two hours to Big Bear. Now it’s our backyard,” said Lopez, who described Saturday as “a perfect day.”
The storm will be “very memorable” for people in Southern California, Thompson said.
The system also wreaked havoc in the Zuidland with reports of power cuts, rescues, grounded flights and road closures. Edison’s of Southern California malfunction card showed more than 7,600 customers without power, including about 4,900 in LA County, as of Sunday morning.
After a short dry spell, more rain is expected this week with a series of weaker storms moving through the area from late Sunday through Wednesday. The Los Angeles area is likely to see a total of about an inch of rain from those storms, and snow levels will rise to at least 3,500 feet, according to the weather service.
“It’s going to be another shot with some rain and snow, but nothing like what we just experienced,” Thompson said.