Rare snowfalls disrupt southern California as rain threatens flooding

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Hill suburbs near Los Angeles have been blanketed with snow after a winter storm bore down on southern California at the weekend, with heavy rain raising some rivers to dangerous levels.

Forecasters said on Saturday there would be a one-day respite before another storm arrived on Monday.

Lightning strikes shut down LA County beaches and scattered bursts of snow, showers and thunderstorms persisted.

Snow covers homes in the Haven Estates neighborhood of Rancho Cucamonga, east of Los Angeles Credit: AFP/Getty Images

As the US National Weather Service said southwest California had one of its most powerful storms ever, rare blizzard warnings for mountains in the region and widespread flood watches were ending late on Saturday after the first storm eased.

But the Weather Prediction Centre of the National Weather Service forecast heavy snow over the Cascade Mountains and the Sierra Nevada through the weekend.

Around suburban Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, hills were blanketed in white, and snow also surprised residents of inland suburbs to the east.

Wild weather at Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles beach suburbs Credit: AFP via Getty Images

After days of fierce winds, toppled trees and downed wires, more than 120,000 California utility customers remained without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us.

Interstate 5, the West Coast’s major north-south highway, remained closed due to heavy snow and ice in Tejon Pass through the mountains north of Los Angeles.

Vehicles splash through a flooded roadway after severe rain in Los Angeles Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The Associated Press reported that multiday precipitation totals as of Saturday morning included a staggering 81 inches of snow at the Mountain High resort in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles and up to 64 inches further east at Snow Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Rainfall totals as of late Saturday morning included nearly 15 inches at Los Angeles County’s Cogswell Dam and nearly 10.5 inches  in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles.

Residents move belongings away from the Santa Clara River as it floods after heavy rain Credit: AFP/Getty Images

“Quite a remarkable storm the last few days with historic amounts of precip and snow down to elevations that rarely see snow,” the LA-area weather office wrote.

The Los Angeles River and other waterways that normally flow at a trickle or are dry most of the year were raging with runoff  on Saturday. The Los Angeles Fire Department used a helicopter to rescue four homeless people who were stranded in the river’s major flood control basin. Two were taken to a hospital with hypothermia, said spokesperson Brian Humphrey.

A truck is driven in snowbound Rancho Cucamonga, in the Los Angeles exurbia Credit: AFP/Getty Images

In the Valencia area of north Los Angeles County, the Santa Clara River carried away three motorhomes early on Saturday after carving into an embankment where an RV park is located. No one was hurt, KCAL-TV reported, but one resident described the scene as devastating.

The storm was fuelled by low pressure rotating off the coast. 

A line of snowy palm trees in Rancho Cucamonga Credit: AFP/Getty Images

In the US Midwest, more than 350,000 customers were without power in Michigan as of early Saturday afternoon, according to reports from the the two main utilities in the state, DTE and Consumers Energy. Both said they hoped to have the lights back on for most of their customers by Sunday night.

Brian Wheeler, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, said half an inch of ice weighed down some power lines.

At least three people have died in the coast-to-coast storms. A Michigan firefighter died Wednesday after coming into contact with a downed power line, while in Rochester, Minnesota, a pedestrian died after being hit by a city-operated snowplow. Authorities in Portland, Oregon, said a person died of hypothermia.

Source: telegraph.co.uk