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Climate and Environment

As Storm Breaks, Crews Work To Restore Power To Tens Of Thousands In LA And Clear Roads Regionwide

A car with dark paint is covered by a downed tree and power lines.
The scene after a eucalyptus tree toppled over at Cypress Park Recreation Center. Power was restored in the area late Saturday night.
(John Rabe
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Where to find the latest information

Our latest big winter storm is behind us and it definitely left an impression — as of Sunday morning, some 49,000 customers remain without power in L.A. and many major roads are still closed to traffic.

This storm brought L.A. County's coastal and valley areas anywhere from 3 to 11 inches of rain. The snow totals were significantly higher. Mountain High got more than 90 inches of snowfall. Mount Wilson got 40 inches. Frazier Park, near the Grapevine, got between 20 and 25 inches.

Rich Thompson with the National Weather Service says these snow amounts, especially the ones at low elevations, are unheard of.

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"In terms of widespread low elevation snow, like we saw, it's the most impressive that I've seen in my career out here in Southern California," Thompson said, "so definitely was not your run of the mill winter storm for Southern California."

Don't be tempted to go and see the snow for yourself, though — many mountain freeways in the area are still closed.

Road closures

As of 2 p.m. Sunday:

  • The 5 through the Tejon Pass is open.
  • The 2 and 39 are still closed in both directions.
  • As are the 330 and 18.
  • In Orange County, PCH is now open in Huntington Beach. It was closed from Seapoint Street to Warner Avenue due to flooding.

Both Caltrans and the L.A. County Department of Public Works have road closures and conditions listed on their sites. Please check these links for the most up-to-date information.

What's next

We're getting a bit of a reprieve from the rain today (Sunday, Feb. 26) but another storm system is traveling through Southern California starting late tonight through Wednesday.

Thompson says don't worry though, it's much weaker than the storm we saw the last few days — with just .25 to .75 of an inch of rain forecast.

"So definitely a lot less rainfall than we've seen," he said. Mountain snowfall is expected to be between 1 and 2 inches.

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Status of power outages

As of 8 a.m. Sunday — the most recent update of overall outages from the L.A. Department of Water and Power — roughly 49,000 L.A. customers remained without power.

LADWP officials said crews made progress overnight, restoring power to another 40,000 customers. In all, they said more than 98,000 customers who lost power during this storm have had it turned back on so far.

However, LADWP also said that one crew member was seriously injured while on the job in San Fernando Valley on Saturday and remains in intensive care.

"This accident and serious injury of our employee is a reminder that our line crews and other field personnel are truly unsung heroes who work in hazardous conditions risking their lives to keep the power flowing across our city," said LADWP General Manager Martin Adams in a statement on Sunday. “The safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, and we are praying that he makes a full recovery.”

Current LADWP outage map

As of 4:30 p.m. Sunday, an additional 4,922 Southern California Edison customers were without power, with more than 2,000 of those in L.A. County.

Downed power lines due to the high winds and rain remain a serious danger. Authorities say you should call 911 and avoid the area if you see power lines on the ground.

“Our crews are the best at what they do and will work around the clock until every customer has power restored," said Brian Wilbur, a senior manager with LADWP, in a statement released Saturday. At the same time, they're cautioning restoring power could take as long as 24 to 48 hours as crews deal with clearing trees.

Water rescues

L.A. Fire Department officials said two men stranded on different dry land areas surrounded by rising water at Hansen Dam were hoisted to safety by helicopter Saturday morning.

Another man was also pulled to safety in Sunland in the Tujunga Wash. Fire officials said the man, 61, told them he'd left his van after becoming stranded by water about midnight. He was spotted Saturday morning by a passerby. Officials said he is being treated for hypothermia.

A note to drivers on our roads

  • Check your tire treads and pressure before hitting rain-slicked roads.
  • Know that middays can be the most dangerous.
  • Plan ahead, check road conditions, and give yourself plenty of time.
  • Turn on your headlights.
  • Slow down!
  • If you do end up skidding, don't panic.
  • Don't drive through standing water —  just 12 inches of rushing water can carry away most cars, and two feet can carry away SUVs and trucks.
  • Pay attention.

We have more detailed guidance: Your Guide To Driving Safely In The Rain In LA (And Really Anywhere).

Where mudslides are a concern

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works is anticipating debris flows in some recently burned areas through Sunday, including near the:

  • Land fire burn scar in La Tuna Canyon
  • Fish fire burn scar in Duarte
  • Grandview fire burn scar in Glendale
  • Ranch2 fire burn scar  in Mountain Cove
  • Bobcat fire burn scar in Monrovia, Juniper Hills, Devil’s Punchbowl, and Valyermo
  • Lake fire burn scar in Lake Hughes
  • Tujunga fire burn scar in Sunland-Tujunga
  • Soledad fire burn scar in Agua Dulce
  • Equestrian fire burn scar in Castaic

Where to find winter shelters in L.A. and Orange counties

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is offering over 500 motel vouchers for the unhoused population due to the severe weather. For a referral to the site closest to you, call 211.

"Not only will 211 tell you where to go, but they can arrange transportation either through a LAHSA outreach team or other means to ensure that that person gets to a safe bed tonight," said Ahmad Chapman, LAHSA's communications director.

Outreach workers have been visiting encampments near rivers and creeks, offering sleeping bags and tents, and showing people where to seek higher ground if they don't want access to the winter shelter programs, as well.

Here are the other shelter sites throughout Los Angeles County:

[View the document here if it doesn't load above for you: L.A. County winter shelters]

Shelters have been in demand.

On Wednesday night in Orange County, the Cold Weather Emergency Shelter reached full occupancy for the first time, with 90 individuals experiencing homelessness staying the night. The shelter provides meals and showers, and transportation to the shelter is available.

It's a fairly recent addition to the area. OC officials didn't open the shelter until Feb. 1, even though storms have been battering California residents for months.

The California Office of Emergency Services has posted a list of warming centers throughout the state.

Tips on staying warm

  • State law requires residential units to have heating systems that can keep indoor temperatures at a minimum of 70 degrees. That means every dwelling unit and guest room offered for rent or lease should offer heating equipment, usually central air conditioning (A/C) or a wall heater. — Caitlin Hernández

  • Use heat smartly to save money: Cranking things like the A/C and wall heaters can be expensive. If money is tight, be judicious about how and when you use your utilities. For example, only use heaters at night or only set the thermostat to around 70 degrees.

  • Open and close those vents: If you have central A/C, look at where the vents are around your home. Are any open in places where you don’t stay long? Practice opening and closing those so warm air only goes where you need it (most vents should have a small toggle lever). Humidifiers can also help you warm things up — and it’s useful to add moisture into our dry air.

  • Adjust your wall heaters: If you have a wall heater, you can change the output by adjusting the knob (usually at the bottom). Since wall heaters can only warm the areas where they’re placed, it’s essential to close doors to rooms you won’t be in so hot air doesn’t get wasted.

  • Turn on your ceiling fan (really): If you have a ceiling fan, try turning it on. This sounds counterintuitive, but there’s science behind it. The direction a fan turns can push air in different directions, and since hot air floats up, you’ll want to move that around. Your fan should spin clockwise to create an updraft to circulate. Not all fans will have this option, though.

Staying safe when winds are high

Safety tips from Southern California Edison
    • Watch for traffic signals that may be out. Approach those intersections as four-way stops.
    • Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlights. Check the batteries to make sure they are fresh. Use flashlights for lighting during a power outage; do not use candles because they may pose a significant fire hazard.
    • If you’re in a vehicle with a fallen power line on it, stay in the vehicle and remain calm until help arrives. It is OK to use your cellphone to call 911. If you must leave the vehicle, remember to exit away from downed power lines and exit by jumping from the vehicle and landing with both feet together. You must not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Then proceed away from the vehicle by shuffling and not picking up your feet until you are several yards away. 
    • Water and electricity don’t mix. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Do not step in or enter any water that a downed power line may be touching.
    • Do not use any equipment inside that is designed for outdoor heating or cooking. Such equipment can emit carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.
    • If you use a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into it, using a heavy-duty extension cord. Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews.
    • Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep food as fresh as possible. Place blocks of ice inside to help keep food cold. Check food carefully for signs of spoilage. 
    • Check on your neighbors to make sure everyone is safe.

Staying safe in the rain

There's positive news for the drought

About 30% of California's water comes from the snow up in the Sierra, and as of Friday, the snow levels are at 142% of our April 1 average. So far, weather experts say the year is looking favorable for making progress on the drought.

The snowpack matters because ideally it will melt slowly over the coming months (usually starting in May), so that the water has an opportunity to percolate deep into the ground and feed plants, trees, rivers, and reservoirs long into our dry season.

Whether that happens depends on the type of weather we see. Higher temperatures could hit us at any time, get to work melting the snow and increasing evaporative demand. In that case, things will start to dry faster than is ideal and greater stress will be put on our landscapes. Rising temperatures as a result of climate change are taking a toll, and it’s important to remember that the next big drought year could be right around the corner.

How we're covering this

Rebecca Gutierrez has been talking to the NWS. Julia Paskin is also reporting on conditions. Jacob Margolis, who covers science, contributed background information. Additional LAist staff are contributing photos and more information.

What questions do you have about the weather we're experiencing?
A massive winter storm is hitting Southern California. We're here to answer your questions.

Updated February 25, 2023 at 11:10 AM PST
Additional information about power outages has been added to this report.
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