California Faces Rare Blizzard in Latest Extreme Weather

Snow during a storm in Mount Hamilton, Calif.
Snow during a storm in Mount Hamilton, Calif., on Feb. 23. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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An exceptionally cold winter storm buffeting California brought snow to coastal hills that rarely see it, shut major highways near Los Angeles and Santa Cruz and knocked out power to more than 110,000 homes and businesses.

The sprawling storm dropped snow near sea level along the state’s far northern coast while triggering the San Diego area’s first-ever blizzard warning, near the Mexican border. Snow or graupel — water droplets freezing on snowflakes as they descend — fell near the landmark Hollywood sign above Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service.

The highest mountains north of Los Angeles were forecast to get as much as 8 feet of snow. San Francisco Bay Area peaks received a dusting, while lower elevations saw cold rain, punctuated with lightning and hail.

Even as many Californians rushed to take photos of the rare weather, the storm caused major disruptions across the state. Heavy snows shut down Interstate 5 in the Grapevine, a mountain pass connecting the Los Angeles area with the Central Valley. Interstate 80 near Lake Tahoe also closed, as did Highway 17, which links coastal Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley.

“Significant mountain snows are expected into early Saturday with major impacts to travel,” said Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “There’s a likelihood of downed trees and power lines, with blizzard conditions.”

The storm also felled power lines, just days after intense winds triggered blackouts across the state. Most of the outages Feb. 24 were along California’s northern coast and nearby mountains, according to

The slow-moving system was expected to slide east into the southwestern states by Feb. 26, according to the National Weather Service. But another, warmer storm will follow closely behind, hitting the Pacific Northwest and Northern California on Feb. 26.

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