A cold storm system brought snow showers to Southern California at unusually low levels Thursday and caused the indefinite closure of the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine.

“This storm system will likely bring the lowest snow levels of the season, with snow levels locally falling to 1,500 feet or lower on Thursday,” the National Weather Service said.

“… There is the potential for brief snow showers in some areas that rarely see snow, such as the higher valleys of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, foothills, and Santa Monica mountains. Many roads will be affected due to the very low elevation snow levels,” the statement warned.

The California Highway Patrol announced at around 12:30 p.m. Thursday that I-5 was completely shut down in both directions between Grapevine Road in Kern County and Parker Road in Castaic.

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.”

Forecasters said they expected snow accumulations of 1 to 4 inches, 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.”

Snow fell on portions of the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway late Wednesday but did not stick, although rain and hail were reported around 5:30 p.m., causing some vehicles to slide.

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.”

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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