Powerful Storm Expected Starting Wednesday


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A storm out of the Gulf of Alaska invaded the Southland today and will unleash rain, snow, and cold winds through Thanksgiving while causing rough seas and wreaking havoc on the region's roads, forecasters said.

National Weather Service meteorologists forecast between 1 and 2 inches of rain along the coast and in valleys, 2 to 4 inches in the mountains and foothills, 6 to 12 inches of snow in most mountain locations but between 12 and 24 inches in the San Gabriel Mountains. They warned of “significant holiday travel delays and road closures, major snow impacts, roadway flooding at lower elevations, significant flight delays, possible flash floods and debris flows over recent burn areas, and Hazardous road conditions.

Temperatures, meanwhile, will remain relatively low for the Southland, with the highest being 61 degrees in downtown L.A. and 60 in Newport Beach.

A winter storm warning signifying an expectation of difficult travel conditions will be in effect in the San Gabriel Mountains from 4 a.m. today until 4 a.m. Friday.

Most mountain areas will get 6 to 12 inches of snow -- including 3-6 inches in the Grapevine, which could snarl Interstate 5 -- but up to 24 inches of snow is expected to accumulate at higher elevations.

The snow level will be at between 5,000 and 7,000 feet this morning but dip down to 3,000 feet tonight, according to the NWS.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” warned an NWS statement. “The hazardous conditions could result in temporary road closures. Gusty winds could bring down tree branches and cause power outages.”

The snow became disruptive apparently earlier than was expected. Shortly after 8 a.m., Caltrans announced that a section of state Route 2 has been closed from state Route 39 to “2.3 miles west of Big Pines” in the Angeles National Forest due to snow.

A winter storm warning is also scheduled until 10 p.m. Friday in the Santa Ana Mountains, which spread across some of Orange County.

Total snowfall accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are expected between 4,000 and 4,500 feet, 6 to 18 inches from 4,500 to 5,500 feet, and from 1 to 3 feet above 5500 feet, said the NWS. Snowfall at lower elevations below 4,000 feet will be of 1 to 3 inches, mostly late Thursday through Friday.

Also forecast in the Santa Anas are strong southwest winds today, with gusts of 50 to 70 mph along the ridges and desert slopes.

Overnight, the strongest wind gusts were 62 mph at Sierra Pelona in the San Gabriels and 47 mph at Fox Field in the Antelope Valley, the NWS reported.

“A Winter Storm Warning for snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected. If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency,” urged the NWS.

Also in force in Orange County -- both inland and coastal areas -- is a flash flood watch, from late tonight through tomorrow night.

A high wind warning will be in effect until 10 a.m. in the Antelope Valley ... while a less serious wind advisory will be in force until noon in the Santa Monica Recreational area and the Santa Clarita Valley. Southwest winds of 35-35 miles per hour gusting to 65 mph will blow across the Antelope Valley while winds of 15 to 30 mph with gusts of up to 45 mph are expected in the Santa Monicas and the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Damaging winds may blow down trees and power lines. Widespread power outages are possible. Travel will be difficult, especially for operators of high-profile vehicles,” according to an NWS statement.

NWS forecasters said a cold and unstable air mass is hovering over the region this morning, creating the possibility of isolated thunderstorms over the waters northwest of Point Conception, continuing through Thursday evening.

“Any thunderstorm that forms will be capable of producing erratic gale-force gusts and rough seas, heavy downpours of rain and hail with reduced visibility, dangerous lightning, and waterspouts, according to an NWS statement.

Mariners should consider staying in port, it said.

A small craft advisory, indicating that inexperienced mariners with small vessels should stay on shore, will be in effect until 3 this afternoon.

Also in effect, until 3 this afternoon, is a beach hazards statement, which is slightly less serious than a high surf advisory, issued because surf of 3-6 feet is pounding the L.A. County coast, expected to persist through late tonight.

“There is an increased risk for ocean drowning,” warned an NWS statement. “Rip currents can pull swimmers and surfers out to sea. Large breaking waves can cause injury, wash people off beaches and rocks and capsize small boats near shore,” warned an NWS statement.”Swim near a lifeguard. If caught in a rip current, relax and float. Don't swim against the current. If able, swim in a direction following the shoreline. If unable to escape, face the shore and call or wave for help.”

The NWS forecast rain in L.A. County today and highs of 40 degrees on Mount Wilson; 49 in Palmdale and Lancaster; 53 in Saugus; 56 in San Gabriel; 57 in Pasadena; 58 in Burbank; 60 in Woodland Hills and Avalon; and 61 in Downtown L.A. ... Long Beach and at LAX. Temperatures will be a few degrees amid showers on Thursday, then climb slightly amid more showers on Friday.

Showers were forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 39 on Santiago Peak; 48 on Ortega Canyon at 26,00 feet; 53 in Fremont Canyon and Trabuco Canyon; 55 in Yorba Linda; 57 in Anaheim and Mission Viejo; 59 in Irvine, Laguna Beach and Fullerton; and 60 in Newport Beach and San Clemente. Slightly lower temperatures will prevail Thursday amid thunderstorms and roughly the same on Friday amid showers.

Photo: Getty Images

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