LOS ANGELES (AP) — New Year’s Eve revelers braced for a wet celebration as a winter storm brought rain and snow to Southern California, prompting the closure of a major highway Saturday.
Light but persistent rain fell in Los Angeles County but in higher elevations snow made for dangerous driving conditions.
All lanes of Interstate 5 in the Grapevine area north of Los Angeles were closed for about 20 miles on Saturday evening because of snow, the California Highway Patrol said. The highway re-opened several hours later but motorists were cautioned to drive slowly on the snow-covered lanes.
Between 3 and 6 inches of snow were forecast to fall in the Grapevine and other high areas in Kern County, the National Weather Service said.
In San Diego County, several streets were closed late Saturday because of flooding as Southern California capped off the year with the second of two weekend storms.
The National Weather Service warned that burn-scarred areas hit by wildfires in recent years could see mudslides and debris flows from the rain.
Winter weather warnings and advisories were posted across Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
The storm could bring as much as a half-inch of precipitation across most of Los Angeles and more than an inch in the mountains. Most of the rain will fall between about 3 and 8 p.m., forecasters said, with light showers likely later into the evening.
A warm low-pressure storm system brought showers to Southern California starting Friday and slowly moved east as the cold weather system moved down the state from the north.
Rainfall amounts were modest Friday, mostly a few tenths of an inch, but nonetheless adding to precipitation accumulations well above normal to date despite continuing drought.
The chilly forecast prompted the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to extend a cold weather alert for mountainous areas and the Antelope Valley through Wednesday. Temperatures in those areas are expected to dip below 32 degrees.
“Children, the elderly and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during such cold snaps,” county interim health officer Jeffrey Gunzenhauser said in a statement.
California’s wet December was a welcome respite amid years of drought.
Downtown Los Angeles has had around 5½ inches of rain since the start of the water year on Oct. 1, more than five times the amount that had fallen to date last year.
Nearly 17.5 percent of California — a chunk of the far north and the coastal strip south to Monterey Bay — is now free of drought indicators but a large swath of the state is still in the grip of the worst levels of dryness, according to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor update, which noted widespread precipitation in the western U.S. since Dec. 22.
Forecasters said the atmosphere would dry out for New Year’s Eve celebrations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Weather was also expected to be dry but cloudy for the 128th Rose Parade in Pasadena, which will be held on Jan. 2 due to a never-on-Sunday rule.
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