Streets were flooded in low-lying areas, there were some minor mud slides in hillside regions and snow blanketed local mountains Monday, as the first major storm of the season swept Southern California with drenching downpours and strong, chilly gusts.
A flash-flood watch was maintained into the night in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where last July's raging brush fires denuded thousands of acres. California 33 near Ojai had to be closed because of rock slides.
No such warning was posted for the Malibu area, where arson-caused blazes devastated the hillsides several weeks ago and where the heavy runoff caused several small mud and rock slides that were cleared quickly.
In Los Angeles, the overnight and morning rainfall totaled .82 of an inch, the National Weather Service said, bringing the season total to 1.43 inches by 5 p.m., compared to a normal to date of 1.16.
Even before more showers moved in on the Southland on Monday evening--some bringing hail, thunder and lightning--rainfall figures included 1.27 inches in Monrovia, 1.25 in Glendora, 1.46 in San Gabriel, 1.57 in San Diego, .90 in Santa Maria, 1.03 in Torrance, 3.03 at Mt. Wilson, .85 at Montebello, .73 at Culver City and 1.88 at Beaumont.
After being closed on and off since early morning, Interstate 5 was partially closed again about 6:30 p.m., as more snow fell. A hundred motorists at a time were escorted from Lake Hughes Road to Grapevine in Kern County by a California Highway Patrol car and a snowplow, which then led similar processions southbound.
Forecasters said showers through early today, with winds gusting to 25 m.p.h., should give way to partly cloudy weather with Los Angeles-area highs in the upper 50s. The chance of rain will be about 50%, decreasing as the day progresses.
Tonight and Wednesday should be mostly clear, they added. And Wednesday probably will be slightly warmer.
Monday's downtown high was a chilly 59, after an overnight low of 49. Relative humidity ranged between 93% and 69%.
As the storm front moved southeast through San Diego County, even heavier rainfall was recorded and streets were being flooded by runoff. By late Monday, San Diego had reported 2.14 inches of rain, El Cajon had 2, Julian 2.25, La Mesa 2.39, Santee 2.20 and Vista 2.15.
San Diego police said they could not keep up with the auto accident calls. There was minor flooding and a rash of wind-caused power outages. San Diego State University canceled afternoon and evening classes because of outages.
In the San Bernardino Mountains, it was still snowing briskly Monday night, with an estimated 18 inches on the ground at Big Bear and ski lift operators predicting they would be open within two or three days. Most said they certainly will be doing business this weekend.
But prospective mountain motorists were cautioned to take chains--even if the weather looks clear.
The CHP warned of drifting snow on Angeles Crest Highway in the San Gabriel Mountains. Snow was expected to continue falling Monday night in the mountains, as well as in the higher desert areas. A winter storm warning was issued for both regions and the weather service said travel was expected to be "extremely hazardous" in both regions.
The storm dropped snow several feet deep across the Sierra Nevada, as the wet and windy weather spread to the Rockies. In the Lake Tahoe area, two to three feet of snow fell by early Monday morning. There were even heavier amounts at higher elevations.
At Reno, where the low reading of 8 degrees set a record for the date, the runway at Reno Cannon International Airport was finally cleared after more than 100 flights were canceled on Sunday. A total of 15 inches fell there in 24 hours.
State meteorologist John James said the storm was "shattering records all to pieces."
But Sierra ski resort operators were happy. A rental shop manager at a ski resort in Soda Springs, Nev., said, "As soon as the roads open, we're open."
A 52-year-old Hacienda Heights man, Jerry Warila, was found in his small skiff 15 to 20 miles south of Avalon, after high winds blew him out to sea as he attempted to row out to his yacht anchored in the Santa Catalina Island harbor at midnight Sunday.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Foster said Warila was picked up about 4 p.m. Monday by the Navy oiler Wabash, incoherent and suffering from hypothermia. He was taken by Coast Guard helicopter to the Navy hospital in San Diego.
The Coast Guard found the survivor of a fishing boat that apparently sank in the stormy ocean about two miles off San Diego's Point Loma and a few minutes later, pulled a body from the water in the same area. The survivor was said to be Italian and spoke no English. He was not immediately identified.
Trapped by Snow