Evacuation Orders Lifted For Burn Areas As Storm Brings Rain, Snow to SoCal

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Moderate to occasionally heavy rain doused Southland communities today as snow fell in the mountains amid strong, gusty winds.

``The snow and gusty winds will create very hazardous driving conditions with icy roads and reduced visibility in snow and blowing snow,'' warned a National Weather Service statement, adding that south-to-southwest winds were blowing at sustained speeds of 25 to 35 miles per hour, with 50-mph gusts. ``Plan on difficult travel conditions above 5,000 feet. Be prepared for significant reductions in visibility at times.''

Highways 2 and 33 through the San Gabriels could be adversely affected by the snow, forecasters said. Although Interstate 5 through the Grapevine has not been disrupted by snow or ice in the storm that reached the Southland Thursday night, there is a chance it could be by Saturday morning, according to the statement.

The snow level has been ranging mostly between 5,000 and 5,500 feet and is expected to drop to between 4,000 and 4,500 feet late tonight into Saturday, according to the NWS. Total snow accumulations of 12 inches or more are likely above 7,000 feet, with accumulations of 6 to 12 inches between 6,000 and 7,000 feet. Lighter amounts can be expected below 6,000 feet.

A winter storm warning, which indicates highly challenging travel conditions, is scheduled to be in effect in the San Gabriel Mountains in L.A., Ventura and Santa Barbara counties until 4 p.m. Saturday.

The NWS said this storm would produce between a half-inch and an inch of rain along the coast and in valley areas, and between two and three inches of rain in the mountains.

By 9:15 a.m. today, no mudslide or debris flow had materialized in Los Angeles County over slopes previously denuded by wildfire, but it could still happen later in the day as the storm's front pushes south, said NWS meteorologist Robbie Munroe. Rain has been falling in L.A. County at a maximum rate of .32 inches per hour, said NWS weather specialist Stuart Seto, adding that rates of a half-inch per hour would trigger slides.

A flash flood watch will be in effect through this afternoon in the San Gabriel Mountains and San Fernando Valley, where rain was expected this morning, followed by showers this afternoon. In the Antelope Valley, where southwest winds were blowing at between 20 and 35 mph and gusting to 40 mph, a wind advisory will be in effect until 9 tonight.

Powerful wind gusts were recorded in L.A. County in a 12-hour period ending at 4:30 this morning, including as high as 48 mph in the San Gabriels, 43 mph in the Antelope Valley and 40 mph along the coast, according to the NWS.

The NWS forecast rain today and highs of 46 degrees on Mount Wilson; 54 in Lancaster; 55 in Palmdale; 57 in San Gabriel; 58 in Burbank; 59 in Pasadena; 60 in Downtown L.A., Long Beach, Avalon, Woodland Hills, and at LAX. Saturday's temperatures will be the same or lower amid showers. A warming trend is expected starting Monday, with no precipitation in the forecast.

Rain was also forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 59 in San Clemente and Laguna Beach; 60 in Newport Beach, Yorba Linda and Mission Viejo; and 61 in Fullerton, Anaheim and Irvine. Showers are forecast Saturday, followed by a warming trend and sunny skies Sunday, with highs reaching the mid 70s Monday and remaining there a few days.

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