DENVER – Parts of southwestern Colorado have received over 3 feet of snow from the winter storm making its way across the state.
Wolf Creek Ski Area says it has gotten 3.7 feet over the last 48 hours while Silverton Mountain reports 3.1 feet. Winds gusting up to 50 mph per hour are forecast in southwestern Colorado on Tuesday, prompting a blizzard warning. Areas affected by the warning include Durango, Pagosa Springs and Cortez.
Heavy snow and strong winds closed the Durango-La Plata County airport and knocked out power to an estimated 1,200 customers. All but a handful of customers had power restored by the afternoon.
Avalanche warnings and watches have been issued for much of the High Country and the threat is rated high in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado.
In California, a cold storm brought heavy rain, snow and strong winds on Monday, causing hundreds of traffic accidents and shutting down a portion of Interstate 5, the state's major north-south route.
The powerful storm threatened to spawn mudslides in wildfire-devastated areas — where residents in Los Angeles' foothill communities were packed and ready to flee — but no damage was reported as of Monday night.
Nine homes were placed under mandatory evacuation for most of the afternoon in Sunland, northeast of downtown Los Angeles, where residents were threatened by the huge Station Fire this summer. The blaze charred 250 square miles of the Angeles National Forest while burning 89 homes and reducing slopes of water-retaining timber and brush to stumps and ash.
The evacuation order was lifted and a flash flood watch was canceled by evening, but a winter storm warning for the mountains, a freeze watch and wind advisories for the valleys were in effect overnight.
Interstate 5, the main road out of Southern California, was closed in both directions over the Grapevine in the Tehachapi Mountains due to snow Monday evening, California Highway Patrol Officer Monica Posada said.
Emergency Management Department spokesman Chris Ipsen said the storm blew through quickly and dumped most of its precipitation on Orange County and San Diego.
In Southern California's mountains, the storm dumped about a foot snow as low as 2,000 feet, the National Weather Service said.
Snow dusted San Francisco's suburbs at elevations of only 350 feet, delighting children and impressing weather experts, who said it was unusual to see the white stuff in the Oakland Hills and in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Downtown Los Angeles got almost an inch of rain, while coastal areas got slightly more, Weather Service forecaster Stuart Seto said. The storm broke rainfall records at San Diego's Lindberg Field.
A task force several months ago identified nine canyon homes as being in a potential site of mudslides or flooding, but no problems were reported Monday, Ipsen said.
Sandbags and concrete barriers were put in place not long after the fire was doused near La Canada Flintridge, about 14 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
In the Paradise Valley neighborhood, homeowner Gary Stibal kept watch on the burned mountain slope that rises sharply from his backyard. His yard was freshly cleared of 5 feet of mud that gushed down during a brief cloudburst earlier this fall. His car was packed and, like others in the neighborhood, was parked in the driveway facing the street for a quick getaway.
"People are nervous," he said as raindrops pattered on his umbrella. "It's letting up a little bit now, but I guess there's more heavy stuff coming in later."
Police officers went to the top of Haines Canyon and advised residents in a handful of homes that they should be ready to leave, said resident April Faieta. The homes are just below a flood control debris basin with towering denuded slopes.
Faieta said she and several neighbors would remain in their homes, noting that she evacuated three times due to the Station Fire and the home was not affected.
"Everybody left a little too early. ... Everybody's just waiting," she said.
Meanwhile, rescuers dove into the rushing water of the Los Angeles River near downtown to fish out a man who got stranded on a grassy island Monday. Another woman was helped off the steep concrete river bank earlier and treated for hypothermia.
In the Central Valley, California's agricultural heart, a hard freeze was expected Tuesday with lows in the upper 20s.
The National Weather Service issued a warning of high winds for San Diego. Gusts up to 60 mph were forecast.
Back-to-back storms from the tropical Pacific are predicted to arrive on Thursday and Saturday, Seto said.
"It'll be weaker, but on top of the inch of rain we just got, it's going to raise some serious concerns," he said.