LOS ANGELES (AP) — Snow fell at low levels in Southern California on Thursday with the arrival of a very cold storm that added even more precipitation in a wet winter that has almost eliminated drought conditions statewide.
Snow fell in the Santa Monica Mountains above the Malibu coast, the Los Angeles County Fire Department air operations section showed in a video posted on Twitter.
In the nearby celebrity haven of Calabasas, actor Jerry O’Connell recorded video of himself as snow fell on his car and quickly melted. “It is snowing in Calabasas — crazy,” he said.
The National Weather Service had said the snow level could lower to 1,000 feet (305 meters) as the day wore on.
“Correct, that is snow!” the weather service said in response to a video posted from a school in suburban Thousand Oaks where white stuff was lightly falling.
Earlier, the storm coated large areas of desert northeast of Los Angeles, temporarily halting traffic on various state routes.
“It’s beautiful,” said Kate Porter, a resident of the community of Joshua Tree .
A foot of snow (30 centimeters) was reported in that area at Pioneertown, the National Weather Service said. Similar amounts were reported in the upper elevations of the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains.
Rare “thundersnow” was observed at Big Bear in the San Bernardino range, where road closures were being reported.
Snow closed heavily traveled Interstate 5 in Tejon Pass north of Los Angeles until Caltrans crews could clear the roadway, allowing traffic to resume under Highway Patrol escorts. To the east, Interstate 15 over Cajon Pass remained open but with some slowing because of conditions.
The quaint mountain town of Julian, an hour’s drive east of San Diego, appeared coated in snow in webcam video on the Chamber of Commerce website .
The cold storm originated in western Canada and came into California over land rather than along the coast. The storm track was caused by a ridge of high pressure over the central Pacific that blocked storms from the tropics but allowed cold air from the north to dive southward, the National Weather Service said.
Elsewhere, showers fell in the Central Valley and on the Central Coast while northern parts of the state were drying out.
This winter’s storms have almost washed drought conditions out of California.
The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that more than 67 percent of the state is totally free of any level of dryness. That’s the highest percentage since late 2017.
Just under 30 percent of California is now classified as abnormally dry, and less than 4 percent remains in either moderate or severe drought. The remaining drought conditions are confined to the far northern area along the California-Oregon border.
Three months ago, more than three-quarters of the state was in moderate to extreme drought and the remainder was abnormally dry.