Snow fell at low levels in Southern California on Thursday with the arrival of the latest storm in a very wet winter that has almost eliminated drought conditions statewide.

Snow coated large areas of desert northeast of Los Angeles, temporarily halting traffic on various state routes.

“It’s beautiful,” said Kate Porter, a resident of the community of Joshua Tree .

A foot of snow (30 centimeters) was reported in the area at Pioneertown, the National Weather Service said. Similar amounts were reported in the upper elevations of the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains.

Rare “thundersnow” was observed at Big Bear in the San Bernardino range, where road closures were being reported.

Two heavily used major routes vital to trucking, commutes and travel — Interstate 5 over Tejon Pass north of Los Angeles and Interstate 15 over Cajon Pass to the east — remained open but with some slowing because of conditions.

At times California Highway Patrol units paced traffic to keep speeds down.

The quaint mountain town of Julian, an hour’s drive east of San Diego, appeared coated in snow in webcam video on the Chamber of Commerce website .

The cold storm originated in western Canada and came into California over land rather than along the coast. The storm track was caused by a ridge of high pressure over the central Pacific that blocked storms from the tropics but allowed cold air from the north to dive southward, the National Weather Service said.

Elsewhere, showers fell in the Central Valley and on the Central Coast while northern parts of the state were drying out.

This winter’s storms have almost washed drought conditions out of California.

The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that more than 67 percent of the state is totally free of any level of dryness. That’s the highest percentage since late 2017.

Just under 30 percent of California is now classified as abnormally dry, and less than 4 percent remains in either moderate or severe drought. The remaining drought conditions are confined to the far northern area along the California-Oregon border.

Three months ago, more than three-quarters of the state was in moderate to extreme drought and the remainder was abnormally dry.

Associated Press

 

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