The state had its first blizzard warning since 1989 with record snowfall forecast in some mountainous areas and the National Weather Service (NWS) reporting that travel would be very difficult, if not impossible.
It comes only weeks after parts of California received half the annual rainfall when the state was bombarded by a relentless parade of atmospheric rivers.
The latest storm system was described as “cold and dangerous” by NWS, and beginning to bare its teeth on Friday while heading south.
Alerts were issued for ocean water spouts and land-based tornadoes in southeast Santa Barbara and southern Ventura counties outside of Los Angeles.
Above LA, the iconic Hollywood sign received a light but exceptionally rare sprinkling of snow, ABC7 reported. Sightseers gathered below the hills to snap pictures of the famous lettering which was also shrouded in a dense fog.
Heavy bands of rains were expected across southern California, ranging from two to five inches, and up to six inches in the foothills and mountains below where snow was falling.
“Simply put, this will be a historic event for the amount of snow over the higher peaks and lower elevation snow,” said the NWS regional office.
In the next 24 hours, snowfall of six to 12 inches is possible at elevations of 2,500-4,000 feet, and three to five feet at higher elevations. Isolated amounts of up to eight feet are possible nearer to peaks, according to NWS.
Strong, gusty winds of 60-75 mph will howl through southern California’s mountains and foothills and at 30-50mph along the coasts and valleys.
Temperatures will be 10-20 degrees colder than usual, and as much as 25 degrees below normal in places while wind chills will bring it down to -5F in the mountains, forecasters said.
Public officials warned residents to prepare for possible road closures, delays and be especially careful due to whiteout and blizzard conditions, along with the increased threat of avalanches. Interstate 5, the major north-south highway running down the west coast, was shut south of the Oregon border.
Due to the heavy rainfall, there is risk of flash floods and river flooding along with mud and debris flows in the burn scars of recent wildfires.
On Friday afternoon, flooding potential was increasing in Santa Barbara and LA counties due to persistent, slow moving rain bands, NWS warned, urging drivers to take extreme caution.
#BREAKING Avoid Vineland Avenue in North Hollywood next to Hollywood Burbank Airport because of street flooding that trapped at least 5 cars, drivers were able to get out on their own per @LAFD @ABC7 Road closed. Airport operations not disrupted yet, but flooding is near runway. pic.twitter.com/pVffmgXIT3
— Josh Haskell (@abc7JoshHaskell) February 24, 2023
Due to the strong winds, downed trees and power lines are also a threat. More than 114,000 people were in blackout in the state on Friday afternoon, according to utility tracker Poweroutage.us.
Most of the outages were in the northern half of the state with Lake County and Del Norte County, on the Oregon border, the worst impacted.
Both Los Angeles and San Francisco airports were experiencing dozens of delays, according to the travel tracking site FlightAware.
Some 358 flights had been cancelled in the US today overall due to the severe weather conditions from coast to coast and more than 4,500 flights were delayed.
Over the border in Oregon, the city of Portland was largely shuttered on Friday due to thick ice that wouldn’t thaw out until Saturday. The city received close to 11 inches of snow this week, the second highest amount on record.
From coast-to-coast, Winter Storm Olive has pummeled much of the western and northern United States this week, styming travel plans and leaving nearly 1million people without power.
By Friday, that was down to under 700,000 residents, mostly in Michigan and centered around Detroit.
A Michigan firefighter died on Wednesday after coming in contact with a downed power line in Paw Paw,The Associated Press reported. He was named as Ethan Quillen, a father and volunteer firefighter since 2019, by local station News Channel 3.
But despite the bitter cold in many places, the US was a landscape of climate extremes. While deep Arctic air caused temperatures to plummet as much as 30 to 40 degrees below average in parts of the West and Plains, the US also experienced its first 100-degree day of 2023.
Falcon Lake in Texas hit 100F on Wednesday as temperature records were broken across the Southwest.