A cold storm system brought snow showers and hail to Southern California at unusually low levels Thursday and caused the indefinite closure of the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine.
Snow was falling as low as 1,500 feet over many parts of the Southland, according to the National Weather Service.
The California Highway Patrol announced at around 12:30 p.m. Thursday that Interstate 5 was completely shut down in both directions between Parker Road in Castaic and Grapevine Road in Kern County.
Vehicles were backed up for miles in the early afternoon. Caltrans officials said they were working diligently to clear ice off the road, but “Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.”
The Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations Section tweeted that as of 12:50 p.m., snow was falling at the 1,500-feet level in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu. Officials warned that roads there “will be slippery.”
“Isolated rain shower with pea-sized hail near Topanga Blvd and PCH along the Malibu/(Santa Monica) city border,” the NWS’ Los Angeles office tweeted around 1 p.m.
Snow and hail were also reported over parts of Pasadena.
“This is probably the coldest storm system I’ve seen in my time in California,” NWS meteorologist David Sweet told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve had cold mornings and freeze conditions, but I don’t remember seeing anything quite this cold.”
Sweet added that some sections of the Hollywood Hills might even see snow Thursday.
Forecasters said they expected snow accumulations of 1 to 4 inches during this latest storm, with 4 to 6 inches possible across the eastern San Gabriel Mountains in L.A. County, along with “dangerous winter weather driving conditions due to snow showers, icy roadways, and gusty winds.”
The snow level in the San Gabriel Mountains was expected to fall to 2,000 feet Thursday.
“Plan on slippery road conditions and be prepared for reduced visibility at times,” warned the NWS statement. “Portions of highways 14 and 138 (Pearblossom Highway), mainly near the foothill communities could be impacted by light snow and icy roads.”
State Route 39 was closed in both directions from two miles north of Crystal Lake Road to State Route 2 in the Angeles National Forest due to mud and rock slides.
Off the coast, thunderstorms were expected through Thursday night as a result of the moist and unstable air mass in the region.
“Any thunderstorm that forms will be capable of producing local gale force winds and rough seas, dangerous lightning, heavy rainfall with reduced visibility, and waterspouts,” said an NWS statement.
A freeze watch is in effect through Friday morning, when temperatures are expected to drop to between 29 and 32 degrees in some Southland areas.
“A hard freeze can kill crops and sensitive vegetation and harm outdoor pets and livestock. Extended exposure to cold can cause hypothermia,” noted an NWS statement. “A Freeze Watch means temperatures between 29 and 32 degrees or less will be possible for at least two consecutive hours. Protective measures to save outdoor plants may be needed. Vulnerable animals and pets should be kept indoors in a house or barn.”
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