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The first day of spring brings winter to Los Angeles

Wind and rain delay flights and snap power lines.

March 21, 2011|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times
  • A tree fell Sunday afternoon at the corner of Temple and Spring streets in downtown Los Angeles, blocking sparse Sunday traffic near the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.
A tree fell Sunday afternoon at the corner of Temple and Spring streets in… (Los Angeles Times, Bob Chamberlin )

In a cruel irony, the first day of spring in Southern California brought a winter storm with snow in the mountains and cold rain inundating many areas.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings Sunday that were extended until noon Monday for the mountains of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Strong winds at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank caused Southwest Airlines to cancel 16 flights Sunday and divert at least eight flights, and other airlines experienced long delays, an airport spokesman said.

Snow accumulated on the Grapevine and in the Ventura County mountains, with as much as 27 inches at the Pine Mountain Club in Kern County and 191/2 inches in Lockwood Valley, according to Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. The Ventura River swelled Sunday and was expected to reach flood stage about midnight.

The Grapevine was closed in both directions Sunday around 7 p.m.

"We've got a little bit of everything out there," Seto said.

Residents from 12 homes in Woodland Hills were evacuated Sunday night as a flow of debris and mud threatened a retaining wall in the area, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Some 30 people were ushered out of homes near the retaining wall at 4855 N. Regalo Road, said Diana Igawa of the Fire Department.

The evacuations began about 7 p.m., and some families were sent to a fire station at 21050 Burbank Blvd., Igawa said.

More than 90,000 Southland homes and businesses lost power. About 40,000 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers had no electricity, and 49,808 Southern California Edison customers were without power, most of them outside Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Most of the DWP outages were caused by wind and rain, including downed wires and tree branches getting tangled in wires, a spokeswoman said.

Although there was an increase in accidents Sunday, no fatalities were reported, said California Highway Patrol Officer Ed Jacobs.

"This is typical of any rainstorm we get in L.A. County: It pours hard, water puddles on the freeway and people drive too fast and end up crashing," he said. "If you slow down and maintain space, you'll be OK."

A low-pressure storm system from the Gulf of Alaska, buffeted by winds from the south, brought the rains.

"The brunt of the rain hasn't started yet," Seto said. "Once this front comes through Monday morning, we'll have plenty of cold air behind it that will generate some thunderstorms and some lingering showers. Then we get a little break, and it looks like Wednesday another shower of rain, although that may stay north of Santa Barbara."

Another low-pressure system is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Friday, with more rain, Seto said.

Even without this week's rain, Los Angeles was expected to end the year with better-than-average rainfall. From midnight until 8 p.m. Sunday, 2.29 inches fell downtown. Van Nuys received 6.35 inches in the same period, 40% of its annual average rainfall.

Rain gauges in Santa Barbara County showed rainfall of up to 10.54 inches along the Santa Ynez River on Sunday.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

corina.knoll@latimes.com

Times staff writer Julie Cart contributed to this report.

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