Storm Unleashes Destructive Winds, Travel-Snarling Snow in California

By By Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist.
January 02, 2015, 5:45:26 AM EST

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A storm has slammed parts of Southern California, unleashing snow and rain that will focus on the Southwestern states into 2015.

The storm will continue to usher in frigid air, bringing a frost and freeze to a large part of California into the end of the week. The coldest air of the winter months so far will settle over the region.

The storm formed nearby on Tuesday as forecast and helped to enhance the cold air and bring snow levels down to rather low elevations, including many of the passes and high deserts.

Strong winds accompanying the arrival of the cold air knocked down trees, caused power outages and contributed to fatalities in central and northern California on Tuesday.

Frost, Freeze for Many Areas

While temperatures are not forecast to drop to record-low territory for much of the state, the air will get cold enough long enough to bring a frost and freeze to the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, as well as part of the central coast of California.


Record lows over much of the area range from the upper teens to the middle 20s during the end of December into the first part of January. Temperatures are not forecast to drop as low as that of mid-December of 2013.

According to Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler, "We expect temperatures to drop to between 24 and 29 degrees F over the San Joaquin Valley with a few isolated cold pockets dipping to 22 F each night through Thursday night."

"Temperatures will drop below 28 F for two to five hours in some locations, which is the level where damage can occur to the citrus crop, if preventative measures are not taken," Mohler said.

Temperatures are forecast to drop as low as the middle 20s to near 30 degrees for a couple of hours in agricultural areas of Southern California Thursday night into Friday night.

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According to California Citrus Mutual (CCM), the rind on California citrus crops is thicker and offers more protection from freezing temperatures, when compared to those in Florida. Brief episodes with temperatures near or just below freezing contribute to a sweeter crop.

Other fruit, vegetable and flower plants in the state, if left unprotected, could be damaged.

Snow Visits Southern California

While frosty and freezing temperatures will cause its share of concerns, snow has caused problems over some of the passes.

Parts of I-15 in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties were closed early Wednesday due to heavy snow. Other roadways also faced similar conditions with more than 100 cars reportedly stuck in snow on Highway 138 near Crestline.

As much as 6 inches of snow has fallen at an elevation of 1,400 feet in the Lake Elsinore region of Riverside County, California. The weight of the wet snow had brought down scores of trees.


Cold to Continue for Celebrations, Tournament of Roses Parade

For the thousands of people lining the streets of Pasadena, California, for the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day, temperatures will dip to near the freezing mark during the early morning hours and will climb through the 40s later in the morning with a return of sunshine.

For college football fans heading to the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, temperatures prior to the start of the game will be well into the 50s under sunshine, but will drop back to chilly levels in the evening as the sun goes down.

After the storm finishes its wintry task in the Southwest, it will take aim on the Central and Eastern states this weekend and most likely cause widespread travel problems.

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