Thousands without power as California storms bring rain, snow and cold

CALIFORNIA, Feb. 26 (BNA): Nearly 85,000 homes and businesses in the Los Angeles area were without power on Saturday, as storms continued to batter parts of California, bringing snow to higher elevations and dumping rain and hail on flatlands.

Interstate 5, the largest highway leading north out of the city, remained closed at a steep grade known as the Grapevine due to heavy snow, while several other southern points of the interstate in and around Los Angeles were closed due to flooding, the California Department of State told Reuters.

In Northern California, San Francisco was expected to experience record cold temperatures on Saturday, and the National Weather Service warned residents of the capital, Sacramento, not to travel from Sunday through Wednesday as rain and snow began again after stopping Saturday.

“Extreme impacts of heavy snow and wind will lead to extremely dangerous and impossible driving conditions, large scale road closures and infrastructure impacts!” the agency said on Twitter.

The next set of storms, expected to hit Sunday, will bring winds of up to 50 mph (80 kph) in the Sacramento Valley, and up to 70 mph in the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite National Park is closed through Wednesday due to severe winter conditions.

A massive low-pressure system pushed in from the Arctic was responsible for the unusual conditions, said Brian Jackson, a forecasting expert at the NWS Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“This is a rare case of a cold, cold storm event,” Jackson said in Southern California.

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In a scene that should have delighted many Angelenos on Friday, snowflakes fell around the Hollywood sign atop Mount Lee in the hills above town, known for its sunny days and palm trees.

Sporadic rain and thunderstorms on Saturday are expected to bring rain, hail and a mixture of snow and moisture called “Global” to the area, the National Weather Service said.

A separate storm hit the US Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes regions earlier this week into the Atlantic Ocean on Friday after passing over New England, the National Weather Service said. More than 400,000 customers of Detroit-based DTE Energy were without power on Saturday, The Detroit News reported.

Even before the latest storm, most of California had an unusually cold and rainy winter, starting with a wave of deadly atmospheric storm surges that caused widespread flooding, uprooted trees, and triggered mudslides in a state long blighted by drought and wildfires.

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