LOS ANGELES (AP) — A powerful winter storm that lashed the West Coast with flooding and sweltering temperatures focused on Southern California on Saturday, forcing rivers to dangerous levels and even snow in low-lying areas around Los Angeles.
The National Weather Service said it was one of the strongest storms to hit Southwest California, and although wind and rain levels decreased, it had a significant impact, including snow up to 1,000 feet (305 meters) high. Snow blanketed the mountains around Santa Clarita, a suburb north of Los Angeles, and snow surprised inland suburbs to the east.
Rare blizzard warnings for the mountains and widespread flood watches ended late in the day as the storm abated in the region. Forecasters said the next storm could arrive on Monday, a day away.
More than 120,000 California utility customers were without power after days of high winds, downed trees and downed power lines, PowerOutage.us reported. Interstate 5, the West Coast’s main north-south highway, was closed due to heavy snow and ice at Tejon Pass through the mountains north of Los Angeles.
Mountain High Resort in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles had 81 inches (205 centimeters) of snow and Snow Valley in San Bernardino had up to 64 inches (160 centimeters) of multi-day precipitation as of Saturday morning. mountains.
Rainfall through Saturday morning was equally impressive, including nearly 15 inches (38.1 centimeters) at Coxwell Dam in Los Angeles County and nearly 10.5 inches (26.6 cm) in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles.
“Historical rainfall and snowfall over the past few days is a very significant storm for high elevations that rarely see snowfall,” the LA-area weather office wrote.
The Los Angeles River and other waterways are typically trickling or dry most of the year. The Los Angeles Fire Department used a helicopter to rescue four homeless people who were stranded in the river’s main flood control basin. Two people were taken to the hospital with hypothermia, spokesman Brian Humphrey said.
The Santa Clara River swept away three motorhomes early Saturday morning after carving into the banks of an RV park in the Valencia area of north Los Angeles County. No one was injured, KCAL-TV reported, but one resident described the scene as devastating.
The low pressure area swirled along the coast and the storm did not go away quietly. Lightning strikes covered LA County beaches and scattered outbursts of snow, rain and thunder persisted.
Derek Maiden, 57, who lives in a tent in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, collects cans in the rain to take to a recycling center. He said this winter has been more than usual. “It’s miserable when you’re out of the elements,” he said.
Meanwhile, people in the east struggled to cope with the fallout from the storms earlier this week.
More than 350,000 customers were without power in Michigan as of Saturday afternoon, according to reports from the state’s two main utilities, DTE and Consumers Energy. Both said they hope to have the lights back on for most of their customers by Sunday night.
Brian Wheeler, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, said a half-inch (1.27 cm) of ice could weigh down some electrical wires — about the weight of a baby grand piano.
“People are not angry, but struggling. People are huddling under blankets for warmth,” said Em Perry, director of environmental justice for Michigan United, an economic and racial justice advocacy group.
He said the group would seek to reimburse residents for the cost of buying generators or replacing spoiled groceries.
In Kalamazoo, Michigan, Alison Ringer used a borrowed generator to keep her 150-year-old home warm in the cold and dark Saturday.
“We all survived, but spirits were low on the second day,” he said. “Once the heat came back and we were able to run one or two lights, it was a complete flip in the approach.”
After driving to a relative’s house to stock up on food, Ringer, 27, compared the destruction of the trees to hurricane damage.
“The ice that was falling from the trees hit our windshield so hard that I was afraid it would explode,” he said. “There’s just logs everywhere, half the trees are down. The devastation is crazy.
Back in California, the National Weather Service’s Weather Forecast Center is predicting heavy snow over the weekend in the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada.
A low pressure system is expected to bring widespread rain and snow to southern Nevada Saturday afternoon and across northwestern Arizona Saturday night and Sunday morning, the National Weather Service office in Las Vegas said.
An avalanche warning was issued for the Sierra Nevada backcountry around Lake Tahoe along the California-Nevada border. Nearly 2 feet (61 cm) of new snow fell on Friday, and up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) is expected Sunday as the storm moves in with the potential for gusty winds and high-intensity storms, the weather service said. .
In Arizona, heavy snow is expected from late Saturday through midday Sunday, with up to a foot of fresh snow possible at the flagpole, forecasters said.
Weekend snow is expected from the upper Midwest to the Northeast, along with freezing rain in parts of the central Appalachians. The storm was expected to reach the Central High Plains Sunday evening.
Three people died in coastal storms. A Michigan firefighter died Wednesday after coming into contact with a downed power line, while in Rochester, Minnesota, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a city-operated snow plow. Authorities in Portland, Oregon, said one person died of hypothermia.
Much of Portland was closed to icy roads after the city’s second heaviest snowfall on record this week: nearly 11 inches (28 centimeters). Although the city saw sunny skies and temperatures approaching 40 degrees Saturday afternoon, the relief — and the thaw — was short-lived. More snow is expected overnight and Sunday.
This story has been corrected to show that the man who died in Portland, Oregon, died of hypothermia, not hyperthermia.
Ken Kuzmer reports from Indianapolis. Associated Press reporters Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report; Claire Rush in Oregon; and Scott Sonner in Nevada with AP journalists from around the country.