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Storm Dumps 3 Inches of Rain on County : Weather: Mountains blanketed with heavy snow. Downpour encourages experts but more is needed to end drought.

February 19, 1990|STEVE PADILLA and PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A severe winter storm that dumped heavy rain in Southland coastal areas and up to five feet of snow in the mountains over the weekend rumbled into Nevada on Sunday.

Even as the storm began diminishing Sunday, snow continued to blanket the mountains, and forecasters expected more to fall late Sunday night and early this morning above 3,000 feet.

"It's a blizzard," Benno Nager, general manager of Snow Valley Ski Resort in the San Bernardino Mountains, said Sunday afternoon.

The resort, which had been shut down since snow clogged California 330 on Saturday, had from three to five feet of new powder. It was the largest snowfall Nager could recall in many years.

But the snow and rain, while encouraging to forecasters, was not enough to call an end to California's persistent drought.

"It's certainly very good news," said Daryl Williams, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. But the state still needs "a couple of these" storms to return to normal rain and snow levels, he said.

As of late Sunday, the storm had dropped more than three inches of weekend rain over Anaheim, with other areas around Orange County hit nearly as hard, according to the National Weather Service.

With Saturday's heavy rains giving way to drier conditions on Sunday, Orange County police reported few mishaps on the roads or elsewhere.

A downed power line in Santa Ana which may have been caused by the high winds and bad weather left about 1,000 people without power for 20 minutes late in the afternoon. About 100 residents were expected to be without power for at least seven hours.

The Fire Department also had to respond to a few calls about leaky roofs. But on the whole, authorities said, the day was a quiet one.

"The weather must have kept everyone home," quipped a thankful Laguna Beach police dispatcher.

Not everyone. Malls around Orange County reported a healthy increase in shoppers, as people searched for something to do indoors on the rainy day.

Conversely, the bad weekend weather kept people away from oil-stained county beaches, which had seen a steady stream of curiosity seekers and volunteers since the American Trader spill 12 days ago.

Perhaps hardest hit by the storm were the estimated 10,000 homeless people in Orange County.

Those searching for refuge at the National Guard's two local armories, in Santa Ana and Fullerton, were out of luck during Saturday night's heavy rains. The armories were not opened that night because armory officials were not expecting the weather to be as severe as it was.

They raced to open the two armories Sunday night however, offering a few hundred people a place to sleep, along with perhaps a hot meal and a shower. A few had to be turned away, however, for lack of space.

"They want in, everybody wants in," said Scott Mather, chairman of the Orange County Homeless Issues Task Force.

Said Anthony Domingues, 42, one homeless person at the Santa Ana armory: "I lost my job about two years ago. Last night I slept under a freeway underpass. I only had this one sweater on, so it was pretty cold."

Temperatures are expected to warm today around the county, with mostly sunny skies yielding highs in the mid-50s to low 60s. But high winds of up to 20 m.p.h. are expected to continue.

The bulk of the storm was expected to be out of the state by this morning, leaving the Southland with partly cloudy but rain-free skies. In Northern California, a series of mudslides closed 85 miles of Interstate 80 between Applegate and the Nevada border. Officials predicted the slides--a jumble of mud, snow and rocks--would not be cleared until 3 a.m. today. As word of the road closure spread, some motorists turned around and drove the wrong way on Interstate 80 until they reached off-ramps leading to alternate routes, CHP Officer Mike Winarski said in Sacramento.

"It's utter insanity," he said.

Thousands of motorists, unable to take Interstate 80, clogged Interstate 50 to reach Lake Tahoe and the region's ski slopes. The trip from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe, usually a two-hour drive, took six to eight hours Sunday, Winarski said. At one point, traffic backed up 15 miles.

"It's a zoo," he said. "And tomorrow is still another holiday."

Williams said Alpine Meadow and Sugar Bowl, two ski resorts near Lake Tahoe, reported that the storm dumped more than 50 inches of snow.

The unusually cold storm broke record lows in the Bay Area. The mercury barely reached 38 degrees in San Francisco Sunday, breaking the old record of 39, set in 1890.

"We may see some more record cold temperatures tonight," Williams said Sunday afternoon.

Sunday's Los Angeles Civic Center high reached 55 degrees after an overnight low of 49. Highs in the mid to upper 50s are expected today.

Elsewhere around the state, snow fell at low elevations, even dusting Death Valley.

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