Southern Californians will ring in the New Year with a cold snap that might bring record low temperatures during the annual Rose Parade after a winter storm blanketed the region with snow and stranded drivers on mountain roads.
The thousands of people who camp overnight or gather early to watch the Rose Parade will face an icy New Year's morning as temperatures fall near or below freezing across much of southwest California. A cold low-pressure system followed by an arctic air mass was dropping through the state, bringing snow and blustery winds before a big chill expected to continue through Thursday morning.
"If you think it's cold now, just wait until we clear out and that cold air really settles in," said NBC4 forecaster Crystal Egger.
The record low for the Rose Parade is 32 degrees, set in 1952. The average high temperature for Jan. 1 in Pasadena, which is under a freeze warning through Thursday morning, is 47 degrees. The freeze warning, in effect between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m., indicates temperatures between 29 and 32 degrees for two or more consecutive hours.
Willian Landa was part of a group that claimed a spot, using folding chairs and blankets, on the south side of the street Wednesday morning along the parade route. The location was carefully selected due to weather conditions.
"On the south side of the street, when the parades starts tomorrow, the sun is going to be behind us," said Landa. "With the sun on our backs, we'll be nice and warm."
The parade has never been canceled due to a storm, but a 1934 storm brought more than 6 inches of rain to Pasadena on New Year's Day and caused flooding in foothills.
Los Angeles County public health authorities issued a cold-weather alert for several areas, including the San Gabriel Valley, where Pasadena is located, and city officials urged parade-goers to come ready with layers of clothing and foot- and hand-warmers.
"Be ready and know that it's going to be very cold here," Fire Chief Bertral Washington told a news conference. "We just want them to be prepared, and we want to make sure that they're going to be safe and warm when they do camp out."
Cold is not unheard of during Rose Parades, but the enduring image from the traditional event and New Year's Day Rose Bowl football game is of clear skies and the backdrop of the rugged, sun-splashed San Gabriel Mountains rising behind Pasadena. Initial forecasts called for the cold front to bring snow down to about the 2,000-foot level in the local mountains, but subsequent predictions placed most snowfall in counties farther east and southeast.
Temperatures are expected to top out in the high-50s under a sunny sky during Thursday's Rose Bowl game between Oregon and Florida State.
Forecasters predicted gusts of more than 70 mph in mountain communities. Several inches of snow were expected across the eastern San Gabriel Mountains and San Bernardino Mountains, even at elevations as low as 2,000 feet.
Winds of around 15-35 mph gusting to 60 mph were expected in the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys, the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Catalina Island, LA County Beach cities, metropolitan Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills.