The season’s largest storm yet arrived in Southern California in full force on Tuesday, snarling traffic, delivering gusty winds and dropping a steady downpour of rain and snow across the region.
By sunrise, some portions of Santa Barbara County had received nearly 7 inches of rain, while rainfall across Los Angeles County was nearing the 1-inch mark and growing as the storm continued its push south.
“As far as intensity, it’s one of our stronger storms,” said Kristan Lund, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “It’s definitely the strongest we’ve seen so far, and potentially one of the stronger ones we’ll see this season.”
The storm is expected to move slowly across the region throughout the day, with rainfall totals in Los Angeles County forecast to climb as high as 3 inches along the coasts and valleys and 6 inches in the mountains, according to the National Weather Service.
Several locations were receiving as much as 0.75 inches per hour Tuesday morning, officials said.
The L.A. River was roaring in Atwater Village near Fletcher Drive and Glendale Boulevard, obscuring the bases of the trees and swamping small islands that typically dot the urban river.
The storm created a mess of the morning commute in and around Los Angeles, with accidents and road closures piling up around early Tuesday morning.
Portions of the Lake Hughes Road in Castaic were closed due to mud and debris, officials said. In Pasadena, four right lanes of the 210 Freeway were closed following a collision with a jackknifed big rig, but reopened around 7 a.m.
“Drivers will have to be more careful, slow down,” Lund said. “There’s been flooding in roads, a lot of spinouts, a lot of collisions, so keep your lights on and your windshield wipers moving and be aware of the people around you.”
The weather service’s advisory map was colored with an array of alerts including winter storm warnings, high wind warnings, flash flood watches and gale warnings off the coast.
A flood advisory in Los Angeles County will remain in effect through 10 a.m. and could bring minor flooding in low-lying and poor drainage areas, officials said.
Shallow mud and debris flows are also possible around wildfire burn areas, with emergency officials in Los Angeles County forecasting “Phase 2,” or moderate-to-heavy, debris flow in mountain and foothill areas scarred last year by the Bobcat, Lake, and Equestrian fires, as well as other blazes.
Further south, officials were keeping an eye on the Bond, Apple and El Dorado fire burn scars in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, according to Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s San Diego office.
“[Rain] rates across those areas could be a concern for potential debris flow,” Gregoria said, noting that the state’s southernmost counties could receive one-to-two inches of rain, and up to four inches in the mountains.
“Rain out there is going to increase in intensity this morning,” he added. “First in Orange County, then the Inland Empire, then sliding south into San Diego County. We do expect the intensity to increase.”
At higher elevations snow was also falling Tuesday with mountain areas around L.A. County slated to receive between 1 and 3 feet of fresh powder. Snowfall could drop down to 3,500 feet by day’s end.
It marked a welcome reversal of fortune for ski resorts across the state, several of which delayed their openings due to a notably dry November.
With a huge snow dump across the Sierra Nevada region Monday morning came winter storm and avalanche warnings.
Between 3 to 6 feet of snow fell over mountain areas between Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain, according to weather service officials in Reno. Lower-elevation regions of South Lake Tahoe and Truckee received about 15 to 28 inches.
The band of moisture is traveling slowly through the area, “and the slow movement allows it to keep producing snow,” said Shane Snyder, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Reno station.
A backcountry avalanche warning advising of very dangerous conditions is in effect until 8 p.m. for a stretch of the eastern slopes of the Sierra between Virginia Lakes and Bishop Creek.
Large avalanches have been observed over the last 24 hours, according to the Sierra Avalanche Center. Heavy snow is overloading a weak existing snowpack, allowing for “very wide avalanches” that can crash into forests, according to the center. Travel in, near or below avalanche terrain is not recommended.
Another weather system that is expected to arrive Wednesday night and last into Thursday could bring another 1 to 2 feet of snow to mountain areas, triggering another round of winter storm warnings.
Heavy snowfall and chance of gusty winds prompted a winter storm warning for portions of the Ventura County mountains and the Los Angeles County mountains, which will remain in effect through 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Wind gusts of up to 65 mph are expected to blow in the mountains and Antelope Valley. By early morning, the Magic Mountain truck trail had already seen an isolated gust of 89 mph.
“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” forecasters said. “If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.”
Forecasts called for the possibility that the 5 Freeway in the Grapevine area could receive a few inches of snow Tuesday.
The storm is expected to taper off Tuesday evening, forecasters said, with Wednesday slated to be “a mostly sunny and dry day.”