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Rain, Snow Sweep Area; Five Killed : Power Lost in Some Regions; 50 Miles of I-5 Closed Down

February 05, 1989|HECTOR TOBAR | Times Staff Writer

A drenching Arctic storm swept through drought-threatened California Saturday, bringing rare snowfall to northern beaches, blizzard warnings from the Tehachapis to San Diego County and power outages to thousands of homes.

At least five weather-related traffic fatalities were recorded in Los Angeles and Orange counties. A pilot from Rolling Hills Estates walked away from the wreckage of his single-engine plane when it crashed in rain and fog in Santa Barbara County.

Snow fell in low-lying Bakersfield for two hours as temperatures there dipped to the low 30s. In the San Bernardino Mountains, 10 inches of snow fell at Big Bear Lake and heavy snow also hit other mountain resorts, forcing many to close ski lifts. Winds up to 70 m.p.h. were reported in Riverside County.

Interstate Closed

Ice and wind led to a 20-car pileup in the Tejon Pass and forced the California Highway Patrol to close 50 miles of Interstate 5 from Kern County to Lake Hughes Road 15 miles north of the Antelope Valley Freeway. In Northern California, an unusual snowfall was reported at Point Reyes National Seashore and at Bodega Bay on the coast north of San Francisco.

Rain forced the cancellation of a number of events, including a drag race in Pomona and a celebrity golf tournament in Palm Springs.

It was so wet that Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita canceled a scheduled visit to the fruit and vegetable farm of Roy K. Sakioka in Santa Ana.

"It's very difficult to walk in the mud," said a disappointed George Sakioka, Roy's grandson. "Hopefully, when they come to the United States again, they'll stop by."

Drought Outlook

Rainfall totaled 0.67 of an inch by Saturday night at the Los Angeles Civic Center, where the high for the day was 55 and the low was 50.

The season total was 6.35 inches, well below the 7.73 inches recorded at this point last year.

State water officials, concerned about the prospects of a third consecutive year of drought, have warned that one storm is not enough. They say it will take a series of storms to increase dramatically the Sierra Nevada snowpack. Despite a good year so far for ski resorts, too little snow has fallen in the right places to fill state reservoirs during the spring runoff.

While the snowfall Saturday caused havoc for some, it delighted others.

"Mother Nature has been kind to us this year. It's beautiful, gorgeous," said Lisa Sapp of Kratka Ridge Ski Area, about 30 miles north of La Canada Flintridge, where 10 inches of new snow fell Saturday. "People are having a great time. There's one guy that's even skiing with his dog."

Unfortunately, those trying to get to the ski resorts faced dangerous road conditions. Snow, gusty winds of 25 to 35 m.p.h. and a flood of weekenders were creating traffic jams on highways going to resorts in the San Bernardino Mountains, the CHP said.

Chains were required on the Angeles Crest Highway. Several injuries were reported in the pileup on Interstate 5 near Ft. Tejon, but no fatalities.

In Los Angeles County, auto accidents were occurring at about three times the normal rate and the CHP reported three weather-related deaths on county highways Saturday.

A 70-year-old man from Little Rock, Ark., was killed on the Santa Monica Freeway near La Cienega Boulevard in a weather-related accident.

An unidentified man burned to death shortly after midnight when his car crashed into an abandoned truck on the 210 Freeway near Tujunga.

Crash Victim Saved

Andy Lamprey, an off-duty Los Angeles police sergeant, was credited with saving the life of a 19-year-old woman whose car crashed into a concrete pylon on the slick Golden State Freeway north of Sylmar.

The sergeant ran across 10 lanes of freeway traffic to pull Marni Cooper from the car, but he was unable to save a 20-year-old woman passenger, who died when the car exploded. The identity of the victim was withheld pending notification of relatives.

Two Orange County men, Dale Blanchard, 46, and Derek Cline, 18, died in separate accidents. Blanchard was killed in a crash in Irvine and Cline died in a Laguna Niguel accident.

Pilot Jay Mitchell, 46, crashed his plane on a ranch near Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County but was able to hike to a ranch house for help, said Janeway Ranch manager Gene Morss.

In Los Angeles, winds downed power lines and rain short-circuited pole-top transformers, temporarily cutting power to about 4,000 Westside and Hollywood residents, said Dorothy Jensen of the Department of Water and Power.

Koreatown Power Lost

About 800 customers in Koreatown lost power when a car crashed into a pole on Western Avenue. Customers in a Hollywood neighborhood lost power when rain-soaked palm fronds fell across two power lines, causing a short circuit. None of the power outages lasted longer than three hours, Jensen said.

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