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More rain and snow are expected

After a chilly New Year's Eve put the bite on parade-goers and farmers, a 'wet Santa Anas' storm could make driving risky.

January 02, 2011|By Phil Willon and Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times
  • San Pedro residents Robin Francis, left, Lindsay Dreizler and Chloe Mercado join the Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears for the annual New Years Day dip.
San Pedro residents Robin Francis, left, Lindsay Dreizler and Chloe Mercado… (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles…)

The blast of cold air that brought in Southern California's New Year will be followed by a "wet Santa Anas" storm Sunday and Monday that is expected to bring scattered rain showers and more snow in the mountains and heavily traveled passes, weather officials said.

A frosty, 39-degree morning greeted the thousands of spectators lining Pasadena streets for the 122nd Rose Parade early Saturday, and farmers in the Inland Empire scrambled to deal with below-freezing temperatures that threatened avocado and citrus crops.

"We didn't expect California to have the same weather as Wisconsin," said Nick Anderson, 20, a junior at the University of Wisconsin who drove from Eau Claire for the parade and game.

A bone-chilling storm system dropping down from the Gulf of Alaska and swirling easterly winds could push snow levels down to 2,000 feet in the Antelope Valley starting Sunday, and Southern California mountains could see another foot of snow above 4,500 feet, said Bonnie Bartling, a specialist at the National Weather Service.

Winter storm warnings were issued for the Antelope Valley and mountains in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and drivers braving the Grapevine and Cajon Pass should be prepared for dangerous winter conditions, weather service officials said.

Rescue crews in Pasadena responded to more than 20 medical-related calls along the parade route this year, twice as many as last year, said Lisa Derderian, spokeswoman for the Pasadena Fire Department who said she thought the cold played a role.

Temecula avocado grower Ben Drake said the frost hit at one of the worst times, just months before most growers were going to start picking fruit and when most trees were in bloom. The frost, along with crop damage in Mexico caused by heavy rains, will probably mean a smaller crop and higher avocado prices this year, he said.

"We still have to wait a few days to evaluate everything, but if we have pretty bad damage to the trees, that will affect crops for two years," said Drake, who manages 800 acres of avocado groves in Riverside and San Diego counties.

Vineyard owners in Temecula's wine country welcomed the cold snap, however, saying the frost helps the grapevines enter their winter dormancy stage. Grapes were harvested in the fall.

"It's a good thing for us. Just as important as the heat in the summer is the cold in the winter," said Nick Palumbo of Palumbo Winery, who has been growing grapes in the Temecula Valley since 1998.

The Los Angeles area received more than 10 inches of rain in December, making it the wettest December since 1889, when 15.8 inches fell.

January, February and March are historically Southern California's wettest months; however, weather experts said a strong La NiƱa in the central Pacific could bring a drier spell for the rest of the winter.

The rains have caused substantial havoc and destruction throughout Southern California, washing away sections of California 330, a key route to ski resorts in Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains. The highway remains closed.

San Bernardino County officials estimate that the county had $59 million in storm damage, including dozens of homes in Highland overwhelmed by mudflows.

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