Heavy snow fell in Southern California on Friday, with the effects of a rare blizzard around Los Angeles and heavy rain threatening other areas with flooding.
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The region, known for its sunshine and palm trees, is experiencing one of its worst winter storms in decades.
Some major highways were closed due to snow and ice, such as sections of the highway connecting Mexico, the United States and Canada, and were not likely to reopen immediately.
The US Weather Service (NWS) has warned that snow could have “dangerous and life-threatening” effects on roads in Southern California.
In the windy mountains, the snowdrops should be legion.
Snow and wind have already knocked out power lines, leaving 118,000 homes without power in California, according to specialty site Poweroutage.
According to the NWS, even valleys “not used to receiving snow” are blanketed in white.
In an example of the unusual nature of this blizzard, local weather forecasters, who normally report sunshine day after day, faced the camera with knee-deep snow on Friday.
On social networks, everyone went there with a photo of a garden covered with snowdrops … a sight that the weather service shared a tutorial with is very rare.
“Wondering what this frozen precipitation is from the sky in your area (if you’re in the mountains)?” Los Angeles’ NWS linked a graphic message on how to distinguish snow flakes from hail.
The first, soft and wet, is made of flakes, while the second, hard, is made of ice, the company explained.
A few flakes have even dotted the very famous Hollywood sign… but according to experts, this “snow” may just be hail, even if it dampens excitement.
Series of storms
While not everyone will find themselves under snow, Californians living at lower elevations can get rain, which poses a risk of flooding and landslides.
A flood watch was in place for Los Angeles County and parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties along the Pacific coast.
The state has already been hit by a series of deadly storms from late December to mid-January.
This cold weather isn’t unique to California: Still in the American West, but further north, roads are closed in Wyoming, and Oregon is experiencing record snowfall.
The city of Portland experienced the second snowiest in its history, with more than 8 inches (27 cm) of rain, according to the local weather service.
What a mess to put in the air. As of Friday afternoon, more than 340 domestic flights to or from the United States were canceled and more than 4,000 flights were delayed.
Although it is difficult to establish a direct link between these storms and climate change, scientists continue to explain that warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.
Daniel Swain, a climatologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, says global warming has changed the pattern of winter precipitation in the region.
“In the 1940s, Los Angeles had heavy snowfall, and of course that seems unthinkable today,” he explained.
He concludes that because the climate is warmer today, it is “less common” to see snowflakes at lower altitudes.
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