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Climate and Environment

Brutal Rain, Wind, Snow And 20 Foot Waves Coming To Southern California

Snow-capped mountains behind a photo of downtown Los Angeles.
The downtown skyline stands with the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains visible beyond on Jan. 31, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)
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A cold air mass is on its way down from British Columbia, bringing with it snow, rain, and extreme wind gusts up to 75 mph starting Thursday and until Sunday.

All sorts of concerning weather advisories have been issued for this exceptional storm, but things could get exciting for those at lower elevations because we could see snow in places where it doesn't usually fall.

Low snow levels and some rain

While our mountains 5,000 feet and higher could see multiple feet of snow, we could also see as much as a foot of snow fall between 1,000-2,000 feet. Look for a sprinkling of white in the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys, and throughout the Los Angeles and Ventura County mountains. Between 1.5-3 inches of rain is expected from the coast to the inland valleys.

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Cold temps and big waves

Temperatures will remain in the 30s to low 40s in most spots, except up in the mountains where they’ll drop into the teens. Ventura and Los Angeles counties could see waves of 8-12 feet, with sets up to 16 feet. Minor coastal flooding is a possibility during high tides. Out near Catalina Island, waves could reach 20 feet because of the extreme winds, according to the National Weather Service.

What's next

The storm should peak between Friday and Saturday, and wrap up by Sunday. There’s another storm anticipated mid next week.

Where to find winter shelters in L.A.

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

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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.
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.

Updated February 21, 2023 at 5:44 PM PST
Tips and resources to get ready for this storm have been added.
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