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A taste of winter comes early to the Southland

Cold front brings wind, rain, snow and mishaps. A holiday warm-up is forecast.

November 22, 2010|Carla Rivera

A cold and windy front that blew through Southern California early Sunday brought traffic nightmares and the first measurable snow of the season to area mountains.

It was the second blow of a two-punch system that began sweeping down the coast from the Pacific Northwest on Friday night and into Saturday morning with high wind and scattered downpours.

Forecasters said Sunday there was a 30% chance of rain through Tuesday, followed by a warming trend into Thanksgiving, when temperatures are expected to hit 70 degrees.

Two to 4 inches of snow fell at higher elevations, and the Grapevine, at about 4,700 feet, got a dusting of powder. Coastal communities received 1 to 4 inches of rain, with higher totals in the valleys and foothills.

Roads leading to local ski areas were open, but chains were required for drivers on the Angeles Crest Highway at Big Pine, near the Mountain High Ski Resort.

Rain and clouds kept temperatures moderate, with lows from the 40s to 50s, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jamie Meier.

Rain-slicked roads snarled traffic throughout Los Angeles County on Sunday, and the California Highway Patrol recorded 275 accidents from 5 to 9 a.m., compared with 27 accidents during the same period last Sunday. Most of the incidents were roll-overs or spinouts, which resulted in several injuries but no fatalities.

"Most were single-car accidents with people hitting water puddles and then hitting a wall," California Highway Patrol Officer Ed Jacobs said.

"These accidents are called 'unsafe speeds for roadway conditions' -- basically just people driving too fast in the rain."

Wind complicated the rescue of a man who had fallen into the rain-swollen Los Angeles River near downtown. Authorities received a 911 call just before 8 a.m. of someone in the water near 1st Street.

The Los Angeles Fire Department dispatched ground and air rescue units to strategic catch points along the waterway as a fast-flowing current carried the man downstream several miles.

The river was choked with trash, logs and other debris, said Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott.

The man was finally rescued after a helicopter lowered a firefighter into the water to hoist him out near Bandini Boulevard in Vernon. The man, who was not identified, remained conscious throughout the ordeal. The extent of his injuries was unknown, but he was taken to County-USC Medical Center and was reported in stable condition, Scott said.

Overnight winds gusted to 50 mph in mountain regions, and a stiff early morning breeze produced whitecaps and swells off Venice.

The conditions gave pause to surfers Chris Kelly and Ricky Otterstrom, who sat on the sand waiting to see if the wind would subside.

Otterstrom, 25, of Marina del Rey said the roiling water made it hard to get on top of a wave without being tossed off.

"It's definitely not ideal conditions," said Kelly, 20, of Redondo Beach. "You could surf those waves, but it poses some danger because of the choppy water."

Water temperatures of about 58 degrees also posed hazards to surfers and swimmers, said Danny Douglas, a Los Angeles County lifeguard captain.

"It adds to the dangers, and the wind and chop adds more water movement and potential rip currents," Douglas said, though he added, "This is Venice, and we'll see plenty of business despite the weather."

carla.rivera@latimes.com

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