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Winter storm slams California, bringing blizzard and flood warnings to LA County

LA County's blizzard warning was its first in nearly 35 years.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A powerful winter storm hit Southern California Friday morning bringing unusually cold and wet conditions and sparking flood warnings and a rare blizzard warning in parts of Los Angeles County.

"We haven’t seen a storm of this caliber in at least four years," said Kristen Stewart, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Interstate 5 just north of LA County, a heavily trafficked roadway known as "the grapevine," was closed by Caltrans after snow blanketed the 40-mile stretch. The California Highway Patrol reported eight to 10 inches of snow falling on Tejon Pass. Caltrans also shut down part of the Angeles Crest Highway, a winding road that cuts through the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County, which were also being blanketed with snow.

Other towns in California saw snow fall at sea level, including Santa Cruz. Residents of the college town woke to find a thin blanket of snow on the beach. And Eureka, a small coastal town in extreme Northern California, saw three inches of snow.

Near Eureka, Del Norte County School District declared a snow day — the first time its taken that action in decades. And more than 100,000 Californians were without power, thanks to heavy rain and wind.

According to the Los Angeles Times, residents in the Hollywood Hills saw snow flurries —  at least enough for one resident to make a neat snow ball — and the National Weather Service confirmed snow fell briefly around the Hollywood sign, though a meteorologist for KTLA cast doubt on the reports suggesting that it was really hail or graupel. Most of the city did not see snow, much to the disappointment of some residents, though they were pelted by scattered hail on Thursday.

"This is above and beyond the typical storm we have in the winter time," said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "When all the firefighters rush to the fire — that’s what we’re doing today."

LA County's blizzard warning, the first since 1989, remains in place thanks to heavy snow and strong winds in mountain pass areas creating whiteout conditions.

"Travel could be very difficult to impossible," the National Weather Service warned. "Some mountain roadways may be impassable for an extended period of time. Very strong winds could cause extensive tree damage."

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles tweeted: "Blizzard still very much 'in Play' for #SoCal."

"You have 60 to 80 mile-per-hour winds," Boldt said. " "When you have falling snow with that kind of wind, you’re going to have whiteout conditions."

During the 1989 blizzard warning, five inches of rain-snow mix fell in parts of San Fernando and Simi valleys. Some snow even fell in parts of Malibu and Palm Springs.

An evacuation warning was issued for parts of Ventura County until Saturday morning due to potential flooding and heavy debris flow from rain and snow.

Conditions are expected to improve Saturday, with rains becoming more scattered before clearing by Sunday. Another albeit smaller storm moves in Monday.

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