First Alert Forecast

Cold Winter Storm Blasts SoCal, Closing Mountain Passes and Flooding Freeways

Rain will taper off later Thursday for post-Christmas holiday travelers

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A cold winter storm that brought rain and snow to Southern California forced road closures overnight, including the 5 Freeway north of Los Angeles and the Cajon Pass.

The storm moved in Christmas night and continued into Thursday with snow in the mountain passes and flooding on city streets that impacted post-holiday travelers.

A cold winter storm brought snow to SoCal's high desert communities. Toni Guinyard reports for Today in LA on Thursday Dec. 26, 2019.

"Today is the last day we have to deal with this, then we start to see some drying," said NBC4 forecaster Belen De Leon.

It was snowing in the busy Grapevine and Cajon passes in the overnight hours. Both the 5 Freeway north of LA and the 15 Freeway between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains remained closed late Thursday morning.

By the afternoon, Caltrans announced that both the northbound and southbound sides of the 15 Freeway were back open. However, traffic was moving slowly, and officials said drivers could expect to encounter icy conditions overnight.

There was no immediate estimate on when the 5 Freeway would be reopened.

The 15 Freeway is a major route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. After being stuck for five hours in the area, driver Johnny Lim wasn't sure he could reach Las Vegas, where he hoped to spend some time after Christmas. He worried about driving his car through the pass once it reopened.

"The freeway is full of snow and ice," he said, adding that his car "is not built for conditions like this."


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Flooding was an additional concern in several counties. Flooding closed lanes on the northbound 5 Freeway at the 110 Freeway.

Southern California Mountain Snow Days

Flood Advisories were issued for Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties.

The storm was powerful enough to drop record rain in some areas, including the Long Beach Airport, where 1.03" fell.

Late Wednesday, unusual tornado warnings were also issued due to rotating thunderstorms within the line of rain.

A tornado warning was issued for parts of Santa Barbara County until 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, and was later canceled as the storm weakened in the area.

A second tornado warning was issued for western Orange County around midnight Thursday morning, but was canceled shortly afterward as the storm eased, leaving behind heavy rainfall.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for the mountains, including the Grapevine and Cajon Pass, until Thursday night with snow totals of 3 to 24 inches possible, depending on elevation. Travel through the major mountain passes will be difficult or impossible, and drivers are urged to stay off the roads or take alternate routes if possible.

Those that must be on the roads are asked to be prepared, pack plenty of patience and drive safely. Chains will be needed if driving into the mountains, but meteorologist David Biggar said the best time to head to the mountains will be after the storm, possibly Friday or the weekend.

Part of the 5 Freeway near downtown LA was closed due to flooding. Darsha Philips reports for Today in LA on Thursday Dec. 26, 2019.

Road closures were prompted very early Thursday due to the snow and flooding.

Highway 138 between Phelan and the 15 Freeway was closed due to heavy snow.

High Desert residents will be waking up to snow over the desert floor Thursday.

This storm clears out Friday morning, followed by a return to normal temperatures and sunshine over the weekend.

Photos: Winter Storm Scenes From Around Southern California

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