A cold winter storm saturated San Diego County today, bringing heavy snow and gusty winds to the mountains, along with rainfall and a possibility of thunderstorms everywhere else.
A winter storm warning for higher mountain areas was to be in effect until 10 p.m. The snow level will fall to around 3,000 feet by this afternoon, and snowfall rates of two inches or more per hour are possible through tonight, according to the National Weather Service.
"The snow showers will gradually taper off late (tonight)," an NWS advisory said. "However, additional snow showers will be possible over the mountains on Saturday, as a secondary weaker disturbance moves across Southern California."
Four to 12 inches of snow accumulation is expected between 4,000 and 5,500 feet, while 12 to 22 inches of snow accumulation is expected above 5,500 feet.
Because of the heavy snow, all schools in the Julian and Mountain Empire school districts were closed today.
Amid the snowfall, mountain areas were buffeted today by sustained 15 to 25-mile-per-hour winds, gusting up to 40 mph, according to the weather service.
The agency cautioned motorists using the eastern stretch of Interstate 8 to be extra careful, saying travel will be hazardous due to slippery roadways and poor visibility in heavy snow, blowing snow and fog.
In addition to snow in the mountains, the storm is expected to drop up to an inch of rain in coastal and valley areas. The weather service said moderate to heavy rain is likely between 3 and 11 a.m., and thunderstorms with hail are possibly mainly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The weather service scheduled a wind advisory for the deserts from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, saying there will be sustained 20 to 30 mph winds gusting up to 50 mph today.
"Driving will be difficult, especially for motorists with high profile vehicles," an NWS advisory said. "Blowing sand may also damage windshields."
For mariners off the coast of San Diego County, the weather service scheduled a 24-hour small craft advisory, starting at 8 a.m. According to the agency, during that time northwest swell and steep wind waves of 5 to 7 feet will create combined seas of 8 to 10 feet.
—City News Service