Snow fell in San Diego’s mountains overnight during the first storm of the winter season, leading locals to flock east – and officials temporarily shut down the ramps leading to the snowy community of Julian.
Just before noon on Tuesday, Caltrans San Diego said it had closed all lanes on the off-ramps to Sunrise Highway along eastbound and westbound Interstate 8.
“All lanes are closed due to snow and too much traffic,” Caltrans tweeted.
About an hour earlier, Caltrans tweeted photos of the fresh snow on SR-79 near Julian. The agency reminded visitors to take their trash with them if they decided to take a road trip to San Diego's East County.
Usually – on the rare occasion that it snows in San Diego’s mountains – Julian becomes a go-to destination for San Diegans looking for a little bit of winter weather. This is known to lead to traffic on Sunrise Highway.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department tweeted a photo of the traffic along Sunrise Highway Monday just before 4:45 p.m.
“If you’re planning on visiting our local mountains, bring your snow chains and a lot of patience,” the sheriff’s department added.
By 6:30, though, officials had reopened the roads: "Mount Laguna, Sunrise Highway is now open to all traffic with no restrictions," tweeted the San Diego County Department of Public Works.
At around 1 p.m. Monday, San Diego County also tweeted photos of the conditions, saying county Department of Public Works crews were plowing the roadways on Mount Laguna near Julian.
When snow hits like it did Monday and overnight, tire chains are usually required on the roads leading to the local mountains. Such was the case Tuesday, as California Highway Patrol ran a chain control station at the bottom of Sunrise Highway.
CHP actively controlled traffic in the area early Tuesday until the lanes were shut down just before noon, making sure motorists had chains on their tires and were driving slowly and cautiously.
The First Snow of the Season for San Diego County
San Diego County’s first storm of the season brought heavy, widespread rain, plus snow and hail to the mountains – so much action that the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the mountains through 4 a.m. Tuesday.
The NWS said elevations of 5,000 feet and above could see snowfall of 6 to 12 inches while areas above 6,500 feet could expect 12 to 18 inches of snow.
By 2 p.m. Monday, the National Weather Service reported Palomar Mountain, with an elevation of 5,600 feet, had received about 5.5 inches of snow. Mount Laguna had received about an inch.
In Julian, a sprinkling of snow began falling early Monday afternoon.
“Do expect a few more flurries in the mountains,” NBC 7 Meteorologist Dagmar Midcap said Monday evening, adding that Julian was seeing temperatures in the chilly upper-20s to low-30s.
By 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, the NWS San Diego said the rain and snow from the storm had mostly ended.
NBC 7 Meteorologist Sheena Parveen said Tuesday morning that conditions would continue to dry out all day and through the rest of the week, with sunny skies but cool temps in the First Alert Forecast.
Meanwhile, the NWS released these snowfall totals as of 12 p.m. Tuesday for Southern California, reporting a “trace” of snow at 4,200 feet of elevation in Julian – which had last been checked at 9 a.m. Monday. The NWS said Mount Laguna had gotten 5 inches of snow at 6,000 feet of elevation – last checked at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
SoCal spots like Snow Valley (at 7,200 feet of elevation), Lake Arrowhead (at 5,220 to 5,600 feet of elevation), and Big Bear Resorts (at 7,000 to 8,000 feet of elevation) saw much more snow.
The NWS reported 19 to 22 inches in Snow Valley as of 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, 16 to 19 inches in Lake Arrowhead as of 10 p.m. Monday, and 12 to 16 inches in Big Bear Resorts as of 8 a.m. Tuesday.
San Diego's Rainfall Totals
Heavy rain pummeled San Diego County Monday and overnight, and the NWS tracked the rainfall totals, too.
As of 12 p.m. Tuesday, the NWS reported some local precipitation numbers including 1.22 inches of rain in Vista and 0.97 inches in both Oceanside and Miramar. The San Diego International Airport saw 0.71 inches of rainfall in this storm, while Mission Beach saw 0.38 inches of rain.
Meanwhile, San Diego County valley communities like Valley Center and Fallbrook got 1.61 inches and 1.46 inches of rainfall, respectively. The NWS said Mt. Woodson saw 1.25 inches of rainfall, while Ramona, Flinn Springs, and Santee each saw just over an inch of rainfall.
In the mountains, Pine Valley got 2.19 inches of rain, the NWS said, while Julian got 1.97 inches and Lake Cuyamaca 1.99 inches. For a full look at rainfall totals from this storm as tracked by the NWS, click here.