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Season's 1st Storm Hits Area : Weather: Rain leads to dozens of traffic accidents. Snow closes part of Angeles Forest Highway. Skies are expected to clear today.

November 11, 1994|DOUGLAS ALGER and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The first major storm of the season rolled through Southern California on Thursday, dumping rain on the San Fernando and neighboring valleys, snow on mountain roads and gusts of cold air on everyone.

Forecasters, however, said that by today the clouds will give way to mostly clear skies, as the storm continues to move east and dissipates.

Temperatures will continue to be cool for at least the next day or so though, from lows in the low 40s to highs in the low 60s, said Curtis Brack, a meteorologist for WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times. "It looks like the start of the wet weather season," Brack said.

As heavy rain led to dozens of traffic accidents at lower elevations during Thursday's morning commute, snow in the mountains forced the closure of a section of Angeles Forest Highway for about three hours between Sierra Highway and Mount Emma Road, the California Highway Patrol reported.

"It was snowing pretty heavily and the roads got real icy" at about 4,000 feet and higher, said CHP Officer Miguel Siordia.

There were several minor accidents as cars did a slip-and-slide along the roadway, but there were no serious injuries, Siordia said.

Near the Grapevine in Frazier Park, those who weren't compelled to drive to work were happy taking in the panoramic views of mountains covered by light snow, frosting the peaks and running down the gullies to the 4,000-foot level.

Brian Meyer, 26, of Frazier Park, spent part of his morning walking around the community atop Tejon Pass, snow crunching under his hiking boots, the area's wandering domestic geese honking loudly as he talked.

"The snow makes someplace you've seen dozens of times seem like it's someplace else," he said. "It's cold, but I get a kick out of it."

Nearby, the snow on the ground was a little soggy, but got up to about a foot deep in some spots, just fine for making snowballs.

Ann Rotthen, 30, and her 3-year-old daughter, Sue, were outside their house on Frazier Mountain Park Road, throwing snowballs toward an upstairs bedroom window. "It's beautiful," said Rotthen. "Everything looks so clean and bright. The roads look dirty after a while, but the rest stays nice as long as (the snow) stays."

Pausing for a moment to take in the silence, she added: "It seems to make everything quieter, too."

On local roadways however, the going was rough.

Flooding in Glendale on the transition road from the westbound Ventura Freeway to the northbound Golden State Freeway led to slow going during the morning rush, as did an overturned vehicle on the southbound Hollywood Freeway. Neither tie-up caused any serious injuries, but both backed up traffic for miles, authorities said.

"The roads are a little wet, (and) not everyone slows down like they probably should," said Aaron Finley, who had braved the Grapevine during a commute from Bakersfield to Los Angeles.

The CHP reported there were more than 300 accidents on Los Angeles area freeways between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., about 69% more than the normal level, which delayed some commutes by as much as 90 minutes.

"There were a lot of accidents, that's for sure," said CHP Officer Susan Gonzalez. "Every time it rains like this, our activity at least triples."

Ventura County was more fortunate--rain there tapered off before daylight and the CHP reported that traffic was normal. "We just missed it," said an Oxnard CHP officer.

But in Orange County, it was messy. About 9 a.m. in Orange, mud cascaded down a steep embankment near the Santa Ana Freeway onto Chapman Avenue, closing a freeway on-ramp for about an hour until the mess was mopped up.

In the Antelope Valley, a flash of lightning shorted out the computer system that controls the telephones at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department station, a deputy said. "All of our regular incoming lines were down, so most of the calls came in on 911," said Deputy Mark Round. "They were not working all day."

For some, the storm clouds had a silver lining. At Snow Summit ski resort in Big Bear, where raindrops turned to snowflakes, folks were rejoicing.

"We're in the snow!" cried spokeswoman Bonnie Tregaskis, as the resort prepared to open this weekend. "We've had a couple of flakes before, but this is the first really good storm. It's beautiful!"

Snow was dropping in the San Bernardino Mountains above 6,000 feet, and six inches of powder was expected to accumulate by the end of the day. CHP officers were bracing for an influx of skiers to take advantage of the Veterans Day holiday today and head to resorts such as Snow Summit.

The rain was an equally welcome sight at the Metropolitan Water District. California is under a drought watch, and while most of Southern California's water is drawn from the Colorado River or reservoirs in Northern California, some comes from ground water.

"The more there is down here, it lessens the need to trade supplies with the north," said MWD spokesman Rob Hallwachs. "We never complain about rain."

Alger is a special correspondent and Williams is a staff writer. Times staff writer Nicholas Riccardi also contributed to this story.

Latest Weather: * For current temperatures and the latest forecasts from Santa Barbara to Palm Springs, sign on to the TimesLink on-line service and "jump" to keyword "weather."

Details on Times electronic services, B4

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