San Diego

Powerful Winter Storm Brings Rain, Snow and Wind to San Diego County

Snow and hail arrived in some parts of San Diego County on Tuesday

A powerful storm brought heavy rain, wind and snow into San Diego County Tuesday.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for communities in the mountains east of downtown San Diego as snow has blanketed the roadways.

Four people were hospitalized after a truck crashed into a ditch while driving on a slippery, icy road Tuesday evening on Mount Laguna.

Ice layered roads near the top of the mountain created hurdles for many drivers, including Michael Orman and his son.

"When we went up, I had the chains on, and the road is like this, so I thought, let me take the chains off," Orman said. "I took it off and as soon as we got further in, that's when the snow started getting thicker and I was like oh my god, we made a mistake."

A few steps away from the road, dozens of people were celebrating the recent snowfall just off Interstate 8.

“I was expecting maybe up in Julian or Mount Laguna, but it's literally right off the freeway," said Emily Warren, who was enjoying the recent snowfall with her friends.

Some vehicles are required to use chains or snow tires when driving in icy conditions. Check the Department of Transportation's website on current road conditions before you make your trip.

As of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, at least five inches of snow fell on Palomar Mountain, Mt. Laguna, and Julian with three inches of snow in Descanso. Big Bear Resort to the north of us reported receiving 8 inches of snow. 

Larry McNamer, the owner of Major’s Diner on Old Highway 80 in Pine Valley, told NBC 7 he’s grateful for the winter weather, in more ways than one.

“We need it really bad. It’s great for business,” McNamer said. “All the businesses up here – this is liquid gold to us. It’s good to have it. And just from the rain standpoint, we need the moisture.”

In the valleys and foothills, hail caught some residents by surprise just after 9 a.m.

Several communities reported showers producing small hail. NBC 7 users in San Marcos and La Mesa shared video of the hail but more communities were affected.

NBC 7 Meteorologist Jodi Kodesh said this air in the upper levels of this storm is extremely cold because the storm is a cold-cored low that started in the Gulf of Alaska. 

"The freezing level is very low (around 2,500 to 3,500 feet) so we’re seeing frozen precipitation in more widespread areas," Kodesh said. "There is definitely potential for more frozen precipitation (in this case, hail or graupel) this afternoon, as more showers pass overhead. In the mountains, it will fall as more snow."

As of 7 a.m., the National Weather Service reports Mt. Woodson, Rancho Bernardo, and Valley Center have received approximately half an inch of rain.  

Carlsbad, Oceanside, Ramona, La Mesa, Santee, and Poway got more than a third of an inch of rain in the last 12 hours, according to the NWS. 

Schools in the following districts are closed on Tuesday:

  • Julian Union School District
  • Julian Union High School District
  • Mountain Empire Unified School District
  • Spencer Valley School District
  • Warner Unified School District
The NWS reports snow showers will continue throughout the day adding to the snow that's already fallen.

"We lucked out with this storm," Kodesh said. "Usually, winter storms track a little farther north, and we get limited moisture. With this one, the center of the storm positioned itself so that San Diego was in the cross-hairs for rain. It couldn’t have been better for us."

There is a 30 percent chance of rain through 10 p.m. Tuesday. 

Anyone planning to take Interstate 15 through the Cajon Pass or Interstate 8 through the Sunrise Summit should check road conditions and plan accordingly.

The winter storm warning is scheduled to end at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Residents and visitors to Mt. Laguna and Julian were preparing for what is expected to be the most significant storm of the year. They expect bumper-to-bumper traffic on Sunrise Highway once snow tourists swarm the area.

“We could live with six inches, but not to 12, not 18 for sure," Bill Blakely told NBC 7 when considering how much it could snow.

Locals are hunkering down in anticipation of a cold, snowy storm in Mount Laguna and Julian. NBC 7’s Dave Summers has more.

Bill and Eric Blakely are hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but they're holed up in the Laguna Mountain Lodge to wait out the storm.

"We had heard it was a low snowfall year so we thought it would be pleasant," Eric said.

In order to be prepared for anything, Julian general store owner Keith Soria is stocking up on supplies.

"They're getting their milk and groceries, last minute supplies, so they can hunker down from the storm if it takes a day or two," Soria said.

Soria is keeping the shelves full for the locals and the expected onslaught of snow watchers.

"This sounds like [a] significant storm so it should be pretty good. The crowds will come up after that,” Soria said.

A couple shelters opened for the homeless overnight Monday during this stormy weather in San Diego.

Father Joe's Villages Shelter can house up to 250 people at 1501 Imperial Avenue with a meal provided. Check-in is at 4 p.m. and check-out is at 5 a.m. the following day.

PATH San Diego/Connections Housing Downtown Shelter can take up to 30 people on 1250 Sixth Avenue. Check-in is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and check-out is at 7 a.m. the following day.

The San Diego Housing Commission activates its Inclement Weather Shelter Program at Father Joe's Villages and Connections Housing Down when temperatures fall below 50 degrees and there is a 40 percent chance of rain.

For more information about county-wide shelter programs, call 2-1-1 or visit the city's website.

The trails in Los Penasquitos Canyon, Carmel Mountain and Del Mar Mesa Preserves were closed due to the rain. Gina Washington, Senior Park Ranger said the closure could be for several days if the region gets another round of rain. 

Forecasters said the next weather system will arrive in Northern California on Wednesday and reach the south by Thursday, bringing much more precipitation.

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