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Climate and Environment

An Extremely Rare Blizzard Warning Has Been Issued For Parts Of Southern California

A line of trucks transporting goods with snow on the mountains in the background.
Trucks backed up on northbound Interstate 5, the main route between Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco, when the freeway was closed due to snow on Jan. 24, 2008 near Frazier Park, California.
(David McNew
Getty Images)
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A blizzard warning has been issued by the National Weather Service in Oxnard for the first time since at least 1983, according to their records. It’ll be in place from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon for our mountain areas stretching from Los Angeles across Ventura, all the way to Santa Barbara.

Blizzard vs. snowstorm

A blizzard is a powerful snowstorm with wind gusts of at least 35 mph that result in visibility of a quarter mile or less.

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This latest, rare storm is expected to produce wind gusts up to 75 mph and to drop as much as a foot of snow as low as 2,000 feet.

Higher up in our mountains, this storm could produce the most snow seen over a 24-48 hour period since the 1980s, according to the NWS.

Reconsider travel plans

Low snow levels mean the Grapevine (I-5), SR-14 to Antelope Valley, and SR-58 to Bakersfield could all be closed.

Caltrans has been salting the roads in preparation for the storm and has snow-clearing equipment on standby. Caltrans also said keeping the Grapevine open is a priority — however, icy conditions may keep the roads closed for a while.

The L.A. County Department of Public Works has been preemptively closing some mountain roads. Caltrans will update its map, not just with road closures, but with the live locations of their snow plows clearing the roads.

Some pipes may break

It’s difficult to tell where people will have water pipe problems, but neither the L.A. County Department of Public Works nor the LADWP expect the cold temps to cause too many issues. That said, the latter does see an increase in the number of main breaks during cold weather.

Don’t push your luck

This blizzard is “a total white-out situation,” said David Sweet, meteorologist with the NWS. “It’s quite easy to become disoriented and lost. Lose your way. Not realize what direction you’re going in. You wouldn’t be able to see the road. Period.”

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It’s going to stay cold, as right after this storm wraps up on Sunday, we have another polar air mass showing up early next week.

What do you want to know about fires, earthquakes, climate change or any science-related topics?
Jacob Margolis helps Southern Californians understand the science shaping our imperfect paradise and gets us prepared for what’s next.

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