Rare Blizzard Warning Issued for San Bernardino County Mountains

A rare and potentially dangerous winter storm has brought heavy snow and ice to the western United States, prompting the National Weather Service to issue the first-ever Blizzard Warning for the San Bernardino County Mountains.[0] The winter storm warning is in effect from 4:00 am Friday to 4:00 pm Saturday.

The warning comes as the storm brings snow to low elevations and icy, hazardous conditions to transportation corridors stretching across the state. Interstate 5 through the Grapevine was closed through the Tejon Pass in both directions for hours on Friday.[1] Nearby, an evacuation warning was issued for four areas in Ventura County due to anticipated flooding and debris flows.[2]

The National Weather Service has forecasted total snow accumulations above 5000 feet of 3 to 5 feet, and between 4000 and 5000 feet, 1 to 3 feet is expected.[3] Sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts of 50 to 60 mph are expected, along with visibility in fog and heavy snow of less than one-quarter mile.[4] Snow levels are expected to drop as low as 1,000 to 1,500 feet, and thunderstorms are possible at the storm’s peak.[5]

The storm is expected to bring heavy snow and winds that could reach up to 75 mph, creating near-zero visibility and making driving treacherous to near impossible.[6] California Highway Patrol cruisers were escorting drivers on the Grapevine when it opened on Friday.[7]

In addition to the blizzard warning, a Flash Flood Warning is in effect through 2 a.m. Saturday, and forecasters predict periods of intense rain, snow falling at low elevations and dangerous conditions along the coast.[6] Street flooding was reported in several areas, including near Hollywood Burbank Airport and Studio City, and multiple cars were stuck in deep water.[7]

In the event of an emergency, it is recommended that those who must travel keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in their vehicles.[4] It has been suggested that winter survival kits be put together.[8] Caltrans crews are busy clearing snow from lanes and responding to multiple downed trees on Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains.[5]

The storm is welcome, as California hasn’t fully emerged from the grips of a prolonged and devastating drought.[9] The sudden onslaught of a very wet winter has relieved some of that pressure, and more than a month ahead of the start of spring, when precipitation chances start to wane, the state’s snowpack stood at 144% of its 1 April average on Friday.[9]

0. “Why a Blizzard Is Hitting Southern California” Scientific American, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-a-blizzard-is-hitting-southern-california/

1. “Live updates: Storm brings snow, rain and blizzard warning for Southern California” VC Star, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/2023/02/23/storm-brings-snow-rain-and-blizzard-warning-for-ventura-county/69937965007/

2. “Southern California gets hit with powerful storm bringing rain, mountain snow, gusty winds” FOX 11 Los Angeles, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.foxla.com/news/southern-california-winter-storm-february-2023

3. “Snow Totals: Storm Dumps Nearly 2 Feet on San Diego Mountains With More on the Way From Atmospheric River” NBC San Diego, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/storm-could-dump-up-to-5-feet-snow-san-diego-mountains/3173363/

4. “Blizzard Warning Issued; Weather expected to take “an abrupt turn for the worse” on Friday” VVNG.com, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.vvng.com/blizzard-warning-issued-weather-expected-to-take-an-abrupt-turn-for-the-worse-on-friday

5. “Blizzards, thunderstorms, flash flooding: Southern California braces for a wild weather weekend” Fox Weather , 25 Feb. 2023, https://www.foxweather.com/extreme-weather/blizzards-thunderstorms-flash-flooding-southern-california-weekend

6. “Timeline: How much rain, snow to expect over next five days” Los Angeles Times, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-23/timelines-when-will-worst-of-storms-hit-socal-with-snow-rain-high-surf

7. “Potent storm advances on Southern California” Los Angeles Times, 25 Feb. 2023, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-24/heavy-snow-southern-california-braces-for-storms-worst

8. “National Weather Service San Diego issues first-ever blizzard warning” FOX 5 San Diego, 23 Feb. 2023, https://fox5sandiego.com/weather/national-weather-service-san-diego-issues-first-ever-blizzard-warning

9. “‘Strongest snowstorm in years’ leaves Californians delighted and frozen” The Guardian US, 25 Feb. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/24/california-snow-los-angeles-san-francisco-bay-area

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