California Prepares For Storm That Could Bring Beauty And Chaos

California Prepares for Storm That Could Bring Beauty and Chaos

Southern California mountains are under a rare blizzard warning, while the foothills could become a winter wonderland.

A Snow Pit On The Outskirts Of Mammoth Lakes, Where Dump Trucks Left Tons Of Snow After Record Snowfall In January.
Jennifer Whitney for The New York Times

CORONA — Southern California has a rare blizzard warning for mountain regions starting early Friday, and residents here are eagerly anticipating snow in low-lying foothills — as long as they don’t have to drive in it.

A cold air mass has moved deep into California, dropping temperatures and setting the stage for a couple of days that could be both messy and spectacular.

Where I live in Riverside County, in the shadow of the Santa Ana Mountains, we haven’t seen snowy hillsides for nearly a decade. But there’s a good chance we’ll get a glimpse of a powder-covered landscape on Friday.

“Most folks in California will literally be able to see it in the peaks,” Daniel Swain, a U.C.L.A. climate scientist, said.

While some Bay Area residents could get snow as low as 500 feet, snow levels are expected to be higher in Southern California, Swain said. Up north, the Santa Cruz Mountains, which were deluged with rain in January, saw some snow flurries on Wednesday.

For most of the state’s residents, the snow could become a visual treat in places that rarely get a dusting. It won’t snow in the downtown areas of California’s major cities. “But, that said, it will get very close,” Swain said.

The National Weather Service’s Los Angeles office on Wednesday issued a blizzard warning for mountains in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties starting Friday morning and lasting into Saturday. The forecasters in Los Angeles said it was their “first blizzard warning that we are aware of,” though Fox Weather meteorologists later discovered one from 1989.

In an afternoon forecast discussion, the Weather Service said that “this could be the largest amount of 24-48 hour snowfall seen in decades (likely rivaling the 1989 storm) for our Ventura and Los Angeles County mountains.” As much as seven feet of snow could fall in high elevations.

“Snowfall of this rate and amount could lead to damage to structures and trees with an immense threat of avalanches, especially in the eastern San Gabriel Mountains by Saturday,” the Weather Service added.

Swain said, “This is not a weekend to go skiing,” and described the amount of snow in the forecast as “mind-blowing.”

Caltrans is already warning that the Grapevine/Tejon Pass on Interstate 5 in the Tehachapi Mountains could be affected by snow closures. That would shut the state’s major north-south corridor, hindering travelers and cargo trucks.

And a flood watch is in effect from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, starting Thursday night and lasting through Saturday. Los Angeles could get nearly four inches of rain over that period, while Pasadena could get more than six inches.

The mountains near me in the Inland Empire are also under a winter storm warning and are expected to have blizzard-like conditions later this week.

“If people can avoid traveling this weekend that would be great,” said Casey Oswant, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego. Avoid mountain travel and watch out for big rain and the potential for flooding in lower-level areas, Oswant added.

As Californians already have experienced this week, the winds have been fierce at times. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which ferries visitors high above the floor of the Coachella Valley to the San Jacinto Mountain Station at 8,516 feet, was still operating on Wednesday afternoon. Officials consider closing the tramway when winds surpass 60 miles per hour, said a spokeswoman, Madison Morgan. As of Wednesday afternoon, they approached 55 m.p.h.

Morgan said the tramway saw fewer visitors during a storm, but many afterward “because everyone knows that if it rains in the Coachella Valley, there’s a good chance that it will snow in the San Jacinto Mountains.”

Officials and weather experts are urging residents to enjoy the snow from a distance. Getting in and out of high elevation communities is going to be treacherous, they warn.

“Just don’t go,” Swain said. “People who live there are going to have a hard enough time.”

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images



  • Affordable senior housing: A senior center that will be located at the site of the former Vons grocery store could also see senior affordable housing added as a component of the multimillion-dollar, city-owned project, The Fresno Bee reports.


Pretzel dumplings.

John Francis Peters for The New York Times

Today’s tip comes from Nancy McRae, who lives in Borrego Springs:

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a jewel not to be missed. It is a landscape unlike any other in the world. Over 700,000 acres of wilderness to explore, an International Dark Sky Park, the quietest place in Southern California, an amazing variety of birds, reptiles and wildlife, including the iconic Borrego Sheep which can often be seen on the Palm Canyon hike.

Borrego Springs is a funky, authentic, “no snobby pretenses here” town with some surprisingly good restaurants and the fabulous Borrego Art Institute. Borrego Valley is nothing at all like Palm Springs, thankfully. It’s still wild here. Come and be filled with awe.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Fox Photos/Getty Images

The Times recently asked readers to share their strangest pet names and the stories behind them. Many of the more than 1,000 submissions were truly bizarre, including “soup,” “termite” and “Aunt Diarrhea.”

Another favorite was “burlfriend,” explained by Mya Dosch, the reader who sent it in:

“My partner, Erin, and I are both nonbinary. The terms ‘girlfriend’ and ‘boyfriend’ never fit our relationship. While visiting California’s redwood forests, Erin came up with ‘burlfriend,’ a goofy combination of boyfriend and girlfriend. Plus, burls on trees form under stress (pandemic relationship, anyone?) but can sprout new growth, forming spectacular wood patterns that go against the grain.”

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Soumya Karlamangla, Allison Honors and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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