comscore Winter storm kills 2, strands more than 100 motorists in S.Calif. | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Winter storm kills 2, strands more than 100 motorists in S.Calif.

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    Yucaipa residents woke to nearly three inches of snow that blanketed their Southern California community last night in Yucaipa, Calif. on Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. A blustery winter storm dropped snow on very low elevations across inland Southern California early Wednesday after stranding dozens of motorists on mountain highways. (AP Photo/The Sun, Rick Sforza)

PASADENA, Calif. >> A blustery winter storm dropped snow on very low elevations across inland Southern California early Wednesday after stranding dozens of motorists on mountain highways.

Snow fell on areas as low as 1,000 feet, with accumulations east and southeast of Los Angeles in communities such as Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar and Temescal Valley, the National Weather Service said.

Many residents of the suburbs north of San Diego have seen snow before but only on wintertime trips to the mountains to go skiing or sledding — not at their front door.

In Temecula, people snapped photos of the snow-covered lawn outside City Hall and kids threw snowballs.

City Manager Aaron Adams said his 12- and 14-year-old daughters were sledding down the hill outside his home on bodyboards usually reserved for the beach or pool. He said he’s never seen as much snow — half a foot in some places — in the two decades he’s lived there.

“You’d think you woke up in Tahoe or something,” Adams said. “Our Old Town looks like a ski town, it looks like something out of Colorado.”

The storm also packed strong gusts that toppled trees throughout California. A tree fell into a home early Wednesday in Redding, killing a woman and injuring a child and a man. It’s the third death from falling trees since Tuesday. 

Two people died when a tree toppled onto a car and another on a home in separate incidents as winds topped 60 mph in the Paradise ridge area of Butte County in the northern Sierra foothills, the Oroville Mercury-Register reported.

Farther south, the storm stranded vehicles on roads in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

By early Wednesday, firefighters had rescued 136 people that got stuck in about a foot of snow along Highway 138 near Crestline, San Bernardino County fire spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said. Some vehicles could drive away after snowplows cleared the snow, while others left their cars and walked to shelter or their homes, Martinez said.

Near Mount Baldy, snow stranded 50 other people who needed rescue.

The powder closed Interstate 15 at Temecula and State Route 74 — a key link between Riverside and Orange counties, the California Highway Patrol said.

In the aftermath of the storm, temperatures were expected to remain near or below freezing early New Year’s Day for the thousands of people who camp overnight or gather early to watch the Rose Parade in Pasadena.  

The storm had dropped down through California on Tuesday, triggering widespread freeze watches and wind warnings.

Los Angeles County public health authorities issued a cold-weather alert for several areas, including the San Gabriel Valley, where Pasadena is located, and city officials urged paradegoers to come ready with layers of clothing and foot- and hand-warmers.

“Be ready and know that it’s going to be very cold here,” Fire Chief Bertral Washington told a news conference. “We just want them to be prepared, and we want to make sure that they’re going to be safe and warm when they do camp out.”

The flower-decorated floats, marching bands and equestrian units of the 126th Rose Parade will begin moving 5 1/2 miles through Pasadena at 8 a.m. Jan. 1, but many people will have held sidewalk positions since noon Wednesday, when it becomes legal to do so.

Cold is not unheard of during Rose Parades, but the enduring image from the traditional event is of clear skies and the backdrop of the rugged, sun-splashed San Gabriel Mountains rising behind Pasadena. 

For the homeless, more than 1,500 beds were available at 21 shelters across the city and county of Los Angeles under a program activated at the beginning of the month.

“They’re all at capacity,” said Brenda Threatt, shelter system manager for Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. “They are all able to put up additional beds and not turn anyone away. So that’s been the upside.”

The cold was also a growing concern for California’s agricultural interests.

“Were getting pretty nervous about it, to be quite honest with you,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.

Freezing temperatures could affect mandarin orange, navel orange and lemon crops, he said.

Nelsen said 75 percent of this year’s crop is still on the trees and yet to be harvested. “There’s a lot of vulnerability for the industry here,” he said.

Last year, the industry produced crops worth a total of $2.4 billion, Nelson said.

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