Thousands are without power as California storms bring rain, snow and cold

Feb 25 (Reuters) – Nearly 85,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Los Angeles area on Saturday as storms continued to batter parts of California, bringing snow to high elevations and rain and hail across the plains.

Interstate 5, the largest freeway north of the city, was closed at a steep grade known as the Grapevine due to heavy snow, while several southbound points of the freeway in and around Los Angeles were closed due to flooding, the California Department of Transportation said.

In Northern California, record cold temperatures are expected in San Francisco on Saturday, and the National Weather Service warned residents of the state capital, Sacramento, to avoid travel Sunday through Wednesday as rain and snow resumed Saturday.

“Extreme impacts from heavy snow and wind can make driving conditions extremely dangerous and lead to widespread road closures and infrastructure damage!” The company said on Twitter.

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The next storms expected to hit Sunday will bring gusts of up to 50 mph (80 km/h) in the Sacramento Valley and 70 mph (70 km/h) in the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite National Park is closed until Wednesday due to severe winter weather.

Brian Jackson, a forecaster at the NWS Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, attributed the unusual conditions to a massive low-pressure system driving in from the Arctic.

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In Southern California, “this is a rare occurrence of a cold, significant storm event,” Jackson said.

In a sight that must have delighted many Angelenos on Friday, snowflakes fell around the Hollywood sign on Mount Lee in the hills above the city, known for its sunny days and palm trees.

Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms are expected to fall on Saturday, a mixture of rain, hail and snow and moisture called “graupel,” the National Weather Service said.

A separate storm that hit the U.S. Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes regions earlier this week crossed New England and swept into the Atlantic on Friday, the weather service said. More than 400,000 customers of Detroit-based DTE Energy ( DTE.N ) were without power Saturday, the Detroit News reported.

Before the latest storm, much of California had experienced an unusually wet, cold winter, with deadly “atmospheric river” storms unleashing widespread flooding, felling trees and triggering mudslides in a state long plagued by drought and wildfires.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by Sandra Maler

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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