When we describe snow on San Diego County's mountains, it's typically with words like dusting and slushy. This time, we can safely use the word dumping.
Three to five feet of snow is possible on San Diego's mountain tops by the time a winter storm combined with an atmospheric river is finished on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
"In our mountains, this is going to be potentially historic snowfall, mostly above 4,500 feet," NBC 7 meteorologist Sheena Parveen said. "This is the coldest storm of the season."
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Palomar Mountain, with an elevation over 6,000 feet, may see 4 to 5 feet of snow, which Parveen said could be record-breaking. Mount Laguna could see 3 to 4 feet and Julian may see up to three feet of fresh powder from Thursday to Saturday night, the NWS said. Most mountain areas will see at least 6 inches.
"Anyone that is thinking of traveling – the best thing to do is to stay home and not leave the house – if for some reason someone has to leave your home, the recommendation is to avoid driving through any flooded streets – the saying is turn around, don’t drown," said Marielena Castellanos with the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services.
Photos: Late Winter Wonderland in Southern California
So far, by Friday morning, the NWS measured the following snowfall totals:
- Mount Laguna: 22 inches
- Palomar Mountain: 15 inches
- Julian: 10 inches
- Warner Springs: 3 to 4 inches
The wet weather started Tuesday night and by Thursday morning, live cameras showed at least a foot of snow at Mount Laguna Mountain Lodge. Julian's live camera also showed the town buried beneath several inches of snow.
Snow has accumulated slowly since, but Friday evening is when the real downpours and snowfall was expected to begin. NBC 7 Meteorologist Dagmar Midcap said don't expect that to let up much on Saturday.
Snow accumulations have been seen at elevations as low as 2,500 feet overnight but will increase to about 4,000 feet on Friday and 5,000 feet on Saturday.
A winter storm warning was in effect through 3 p.m. Saturday due to heavy wet snow and gusty winds.
The frosty weather forced some mountain area schools to issue a snow day on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday School closures include:
- Julian Union Elementary School District
- Julian Union High School District
- Mountain Empire Unified School District
- Spencer Valley School District
All this wild weather will begin to tame on Sunday for at least a few days of dry weather, Parveen said. It will be short-lived though. Another storm approaches Tuesday.
The San Diego County Department of Public Works also warned chains would be needed for travelers in the mountains.
- A chain control level 2 is now in effect on Sunrise Hwy. from Old Hwy 80 to mile marker 27.
- Level 1 chain control is now required on Chihuahua Valley Rd. From Hwy 79 to the 7 Mile Marker.
- Level 1 chain control is now required on San Felipe Rd S2 from Mile marker 4 to Mile Marker 7.
- The northern portion of Sunrise Hwy. is closed from mile marker 27 to SR 79 per CHP.
"Please pull over in appropriate locations. Don’t pull over right off the freeway, don’t pull over right off the road, find a nice safe appropriate area. Pullover, enjoy the snow, and don’t cause issues for those who are trying to come up to Sunrise Highway and Highway 79," said Cpt. Israel Pinzon, Cal Fire.