Weather Service reports record early rainfall, snow coming from cold northern storm tract

Snow-covered mountains are a common sight in Anza following the Christmas Eve storm that lasted nearly three days. AnzaValley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Inland and southwestern Riverside County motorists got a break from the cold weather after braving rain, snow and ice on the area highways and interstates the week before, but the predicted storm Christmas Eve brought back those memories.

Caltrans and Riverside County Transportation Commission is warning drivers to take extra precautions in the coming weeks as similar storms may bring continued winter weather with more flooding, snow and ice, especially for those traveling into the mountains, which continue to report record amounts of early snow. Snow chains and cold weather gear are a must.

The National Weather Service reported the storms during the Christmas holiday, in addition to dropping as much as 2 inches of rain in southwestern Riverside County cities, dropped 6 inches or more of snow in Idyllwild, 4 inches in Anza, 10 inches at Palomar Mountain and caused temporary full closures of Interstates 10 and 15 because of the snow, leaving 7 inches on the ground and ice below. The highest snowfall recordings of 25 to 28 inches were recorded on top of Mt. Baldy Road and in Wrightwood. Phelan, Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs and Crestline reported receiving a foot of snow.

Highways 74 and 243 leading to Idyllwild stayed open with chains required for the first series of storms with heavy snowplow and salt work by Caltrans and county vehicles required. Most of the snow on the roads was gone by Saturday and Sunday as the weather cleared, but the roads remained icy in spots at night.

The weather service gave this report Friday, Dec. 27, through New Years.

“Still heavy snow through this evening for San Bernardino and Riverside Mountains (desert slope). Scattered showers for coastal and valleys with periods of snow in the San Diego mountains. Additional 5 to 12 inches through tonight in San Bernardino and Riverside County mountains, 2 to 4 inches for San Diego and other areas above 3,500 feet.

“Another storm Sunday night and Monday, Dec. 30. Similar storm track (form north) and cold (low snow levels 3,500 to 4,000 feet on Dec. 30.) Significant rain and snowfall totals with impact to highways from snowfall (5-12 inches at 6,000 feet and 2-4 inches at 4,000 feet) and urban heavy rainfall (0.50 to 1.50 inches). Moderate confidence of impact due to timing and exact path of storm thru Monday, Dec. 30,” according to U.S. Weather Service reports.

With that announcement, Anza, Pine Cove and Anza residents were making preparations in the event of road closures through the weekend. Caltrans and Weather Service officials advised that travelers driving in the mountains should keep an extra flashlight, food and water in the vehicle in case of an emergency.

However, the weather service said that the weather for the two weeks after the New Year’s Eve storm is looking clear, giving some relief to motorists and residents.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at