About 3 p.m. on Sawtelle Boulevard, a lightning bolt crackled through a glowering sky, thunder rumbled and a torrent of pea-sized hail began pelting cars and pedestrians. Joe Hashimoto, owner of Hashimoto Nursery, stood in his chilly office and shook his head in disbelief.
The icy pellets were further injuring his potted bushes and flowering plants. The cold snap had already "melted" 50 flats of impatiens, Hashimoto said, and killed 50 bushes in five-gallon pots and 100 bushes in one-gallon containers. "It was too cold and icy," Hashimoto said.
But to others, the wintry scene Wednesday seemed magical -- a cityscape so often baked in sun instead covered with glistening white.
Near Mulholland Drive, about two dozen drivers pulled onto the shoulders to delight in the snow.
Among them was Margaret Seyffert, accompanied by her daughter, who moved to Agoura Hills from South Africa a year ago but never expected to be playing in the snow.
"It's seriously cold," said her 13-year-old daughter, Laura, after flinging a handful of snow at her best friend, Izzy, 14. "It's miraculous."
Times staff writers Laura Greanias, Amanda Covarrubias, Angie Green and Gregory W. Griggs contributed to this report.
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Question: What is the difference between snow and hail?
Answer: Snow is frozen precipitation in the form of white or translucent ice crystals in complex branched hexagonal form. It usually appears clustered into snowflakes. Hail comes from precipitation in the form of balls or irregular pieces of ice, which come in different shapes and sizes. Hail is considered to have a diameter of 5 millimeters or more.
Q: Why do forecasters believe that some Westside residents thought they were seeing snow, when it was really hail?
A: One form of precipitation seen Wednesday was graupel, also known as small hail. It consists of snowflakes or ice crystals and supercooled water droplets frozen together.
Q: Why didn't weather forecasters predict snow and hail?
A: Wednesday's weather system would normally have dumped rain on the region. But temperatures were so cold that the rain turned to ice in certain areas.
Source: Weather.com; National Weather Service, Times reporting