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Crowds Look for Snow in All the Wrong Places -- and Find It

An Idaho-bound storm 'made a right turn' and hit the Southland. Many came to look at and enjoy a rarity.

November 23, 2004|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

No one was shoveling snow or breaking out their skis, but for a while there Sunday, residents of Silverado Canyon Road forgot where they were living.

"This place looked like Big Bear," said Mike Colgan, 56, who has lived in the Santa Ana Mountains for more than 20 years. "We've been dusted every so often, but I've never seen this much snow fall and stay on the ground for a long a period of time. People were throwing snowballs on the streets."

By Monday afternoon, all the snow had melted from the streets, cars and rooftops. But Bedford Peak was still flecked in white, and that brought plenty of locals from the flatlands and surrounding canyons to catch a rare glimpse of snow in Orange County.

The snow was brought in with a frigid Pacific northwest storm that coated mountains and foothills throughout the Southland early Sunday. Even Oceanside reported a slushy mixture of rain and snow, a rarity for a beach town.

The storm normally would have steered into Idaho but instead "made a right turn" and backed into Southern California, said Ivory Small of the National Weather Service. "It was one of those events that doesn't happen a lot, but when it does, it's pretty spectacular."

That meant snow in palm trees in Yucaipa, at 2,600 feet; snowmen in upper Silverado Canyon at 4,900 feet; and snowballs in Temecula at 1,300 feet.

So on Monday, people in their all-terrain vehicles motored to the lower end of Silverado Canyon Road, about 2,200 feet, in hopes of driving to the top of Bedford Peak, where reports said 2 to 3 feet of snow had fallen Sunday. But they were turned away by the U.S. Forest Service, which closed all forest roads after Sunday's snowstorm. Others parked at the Maple Springs Visitor Center, and hiked or biked half a mile up the road and tossed a few snowballs.

For some, a close-up view of the dusted mountains was enough.

"The mountains look totally different now," said Rafiq Dada, 51, of Irvine, who brought his wife, 2-year-old son and a video camera to the Maple Springs Visitor Center at the end of Silverado Canyon Road. "They look sharper, cleaner and closer. Suddenly, it feels like I'm in a different part of the country. It's a nice change."

Nice for some, but apparently a hassle for others. One longtime Silverado Canyon resident who declined to give his name said the freak snowfall brought "stupid flatlanders" to his community.

Other Silverado Canyon residents were less annoyed by the curious. Colgan said Sunday's snowfall caused a traffic jam on Silverado Canyon Road that kept his wife idling for 15 minutes before she could pull in their driveway. "People don't get to see things like this very often," Colgan said. "You can't blame them for wanting to come up and play in the snow. It was a bit of mess, but you learn to roll with the punches when you live up here. If you don't, you move."

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Times staff writer Janet Wilson contributed to this report.

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