Sunny Southern California didn't live up to its reputation during the winter of 1948-49. Snow began falling around noon Monday, Jan. 10, 1949, and didn't let up for days. Junior and senior high school students
at Hart got an unscheduled week off as Newhall was buried under six inches of snow. L.A.'s beaches were blanketed for the first time since January 1932,
and the last time it snowed more in San Bernardino was 1882.
The freakishly cold weather wasn't limited to SoCal, where crop damages cost an estimated $43 million (in 1949 dollars); blizzards and tornadoes killed 121 people across the Western U.S. by mid-January, with
Nebraska and South Dakota the hardest hit.
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Snow Redoubles Attack on L.A.; Halts Traffic Through Canyons.
Los Angeles Times | Tuesday, January 11, 1949.
Fluffy white coated the Southland scene yesterday and last night as snow, hail and sleet drove across Los Angeles and suburbs on a wintry blast.
Wind swirled snow deep from the Santa Monica Mountains into San Fernando Valley, forcing police to halt all traffic at both the West Los Angeles and valley ends of Sepulveda Blvd., Beverly Glen, Coldwater, Laurel and Benedict Canyons.
A score of cars were reported trapped in a foot of snow in Laurel Canyon, with several children among the occupants.
Early this morning, officers were allowing occasional cars though the canyons at the motorists' own risk.
Light flurries drifted across the Civic Center, but melted upon reaching the pavement. Police traffic signal repair cars finally abandoned efforts to keep stop lights operating as workers were blinded by the snow.
Many Calls Received
The Times' switchboard received numerous calls from residents in all parts of the city reporting what they described as winter scenes "just like back east."
Traffic along Mulholland Drive was halted and motorists attempting to reach San Fernando Valley via Laurel Canyon were turned back at Lookout Mountain Ave.
Hail replaced earlier snow in the Long Beach-San Pedro area, with the former town reporting a lightning display. Police there said they found an inch and a half of snow on cars parked by the Long Beach City Hall this morning.
Beach Towns Hit
Other beach towns receiving snow in varying amounts included Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Newport-Balboa, Laguna and San Diego.
The chill winds spread treacherous ice on nearly every major highway and many lesser thoroughfares.
Icy patches on the Calabasas Grade necessitated a call for sand to lessen the danger there. Most other hill or mountain grades were said to be in need of sanding to make travel possible.
Peril on Highways
The California Highway Patrol said that all highways leading out of Southern California, with the exception of Pacific Coast Highway, "may be closed at any time." The Ridge Route's traffic was being restricted to passenger vehicles equipped with chains. Cajon Pass was described as very icy, with traffic slowed to a crawl.
Highway 91, from Cajon Pass to the Nevada border, was virtually covered by snow and Highway 66 from Redlands to Riverside to Indio was to be closed because of ice at any time, the Patrol said. Five hundred cars were stalled in six inches of snow at Beaumont.
Dangerous ice was coating the summits of Weldon Canyon and Mint Canyon, it was reported. Travel east on Foothill Blvd. was also perilous because of icy patches.
Snow Closes Roads
Roads into most mountain areas were closed by heavy snow, with motorists being turned back from Angeles Crest, both at Foothill Blvd. and the Vincent turnoff in Mint Canyon, Big Pines and Rim of the World Highway into Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear.
Highway 80 between Indio and San Diego was open only to chain-equipped cars. The snow in that area was the first for Indio since Dec. 12, 1932.
Snow around the Civic Center, most of which melted before reaching the ground, turned back two Los Angeles Airways helicopters en route from Los Angeles Airport to the Terminal Annex Post Office near Union Station.
One pilot, who navigated back to the airport by peering through a door, said "It was like flying inside a snowball."
Orchard heating throughout the citrus belt appeared necessary again last night with the forecasting of subfreezing temperatures by the Weather Bureau frost warning service.
Canoga Park was warned to expect a low of 20 deg. Pacoima, Redlands, Fontana and Cucamonga will drop to 23; Chatsworth, San Fernando, Rialto and Colton, 24; San Gabriel, Indio, Riverside and Azusa, 25, and Whittier, 26.
For the remainder of Southern California, the Weather Bureau expects partial cloudiness today and tomorrow with scattered showers and more snow over the mountains and foothills. It will continue cold and locally windy.
The downtown thermometer yesterday ranged from a low of 32.2 at 6:45 a.m. to a top of 46 at 1:30 p.m.
Yesterday's low maximum of 46 degrees missed being a record by three degrees. The record is 43 degrees maximum, which occurred Jan. 15, 1922, the Weather Bureau reported.
Sunday night temperatures were believed to have further damaged Southland agriculture.
This was especially true in the San Fernando Valley, where thermometers registered down to 23 deg., with 26 or less at most stations. This was the first freeze to do appreciable damage to citrus orchards in that area, according to William Westgate, manager of the Canoga Citrus Association. Westgate said it is feared orchards without heating equipment may have lost their entire crop. Extent of the frost damage will not be known for a week or two.
Riverside registered a 32-deg. minimum between 2 and 5 a.m. Most of the night, however, the mercury hovered near the 30-deg. mark. Orchard firing was scattered and light, but was scheduled to begin early at maximum capacity last night.
The snow, accompanied by icing conditions, caused one of the worst temporary tie-ups on the Ridge Route in years. Huge trucks, many snowbound for hours on both sides of the ridge, were jackknifed across the snow-covered pavement at various places to block the road even to busses and cars equipped with chains.
Major Trouble Spot
One of the major trouble spots was the Newhall grade, where many cars and trucks skidded and slithered about, some coming to rest against the road shoulder on the wrong side of the highway.
While several cars slid off the highway near Newhall yesterday morning as their drivers tried to proceed, no one was reported injured as a direct result of the snow and ice.
California Highway Patrol officers and road crews labored to keep the route open, the latter using scores of truckloads of sand to reduce the danger of accidents.
The snow ranged from two inches at the foot of the Newhall grade to six inches at the summit, with even deeper fall reported higher in the Tehachapi.
The "winter wonderland" of the Sierra Madre, where the depth of the new snowfall ranged up to 10 inches by midmorning at Big Pines, was closed to visitors when the California Highway Patrol barred the road at Angeles Crest and Foothill Blvd. in La Canada.
The new snowfall gave Big Pines a total of 24 inches on the level and at midmorning it was still snowing. Buckhorn Flat had six inches, with the fall continuing, for an 18-inch total. Eight inches of snow had been measured by 10 a.m. at Mt. Waterman for a total of from 20 to 44 Inches.
Snow Crest reported 11 inches of new snow to bring the white blanket to a thickness of 21 inches on the level. Extreme icy conditions prevailed. Crystal Lake had eight Inches of snow, which was reported too soft for winter sports. Idyllwild reported 26 Inches of snow by evening.
There were 10 inches of snow at Vincent, junction of the Angeles Crest Highway cutoff to Palmdale, and six inches at Palmdale and Pearblossom. This, while "very unusual," was topped by an 18-iqch snowfall at Palmdale in 1932.
Here's how the Weather Bureau assayed the situation:
"At the surface a low pressure center is located over Northern Arizona and barometers are still high off the Washington and Oregon coast and over Southwestern Canada. At high levels, however, a low pressure center is located over the western portion of Southern California. It is this high-level storm center with its central core of very cold unstable air that is causing stormy weather in Southern California at the present time.
"It is quite likely that this storm will remain almost stationary, but it should fill up slightly during the next 21 hours."
Girl Scouts Snowbound
Eight San Diego Girl Scouts and their four adult escorts remained snowbound for the second night in Camp Tapawingo on the shore of Lake Cuyamaca, 50 miles east of San Diego, last night. A blizzard was reported piling eight-foot snowdrifts in the area and food for the marooned party was delivered from Julian to a settlement near the camp. Three mountain residents packed supplies to the party on snowshoes.
Six other youths not heard from since they left San Diego for Laguna Mountain Lodge Sunday afternoon were located at the lodge yesterday by the California Highway Patrol. Impassable roads forced them to remain there last night.
Twenty Calipatria Union High School students, two teachers and two other adults were unable to make their way out of the Big Bear area. One of the teachers, Mrs. Bertha Oakley, received a broken ankle while riding a toboggan. The group went to the resort last Saturday on an annual "Ditch Day" trip.
Crooner Bing Crosby played an unscheduled "Road to Pebble Beach" role yesterday. His green Cadillac froze up while he was driving northward near Castroville, and he was given a ride by a Watsonville motorist into town. The temperature was 20 degrees.
Santa Monica Bay residents were irritated by another type of visitation — thick tar, presumably from an oil tanker, which coated the beach thickly for three miles on cither side of Hermosa. Lifeguards reported the name of the tanker, with supplementary data, to the State Division of Fish and Game.
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Heaviest Snowfall in 67 Years Hits San Bernardino.
San Bernardino County Sun | Tuesday, January 11, 1949.
Southern California, the land of the unusual, was in the midst of one of its prizes last night — the second freeze in a week with an unaccustomed blanket of fresh snow.
The freak weather, which found points from the Mexican border to Kern county covered by drifting snowflakes, also brought the heaviest snowfall in San Bernardino in 67 years. In Jan. 12, 1882, 12 inches of snow fell over the city, compared to yesterday's 2.6 inches.
And still more of it apparently is in store for San Bernardino valley residents. E.M. Legg, federal frost forecaster, said temperatures will remain low. Snow and clouds will keep them up a degree or two above earlier predictions, he added.
Boy Scout Missing
Moderate to heavy firing was forecast for last night by Mr. Legg, who predicted the following temperatures for the valley: Redlands 23, Yucaipa 19, Highland 23, Rialto 24, Bloomington 24, Colton 24 and Fontana 23.
Sheriff's deputies in the Barstow area were looking for 10 Redlands Boy Scouts, led by Maurice Clapp Jr., who were missing since Sunday night on a trip to the Calico mine near Barstow.
But San Bernardino was not the only city in the land of sunshine to be touched by the heavy kiss of winter.
The U.S. weather bureau reported the first snowfall of record in San Diego. Long Beach police measured 1-1/2 inches of snow on automobile tops. Glendale, Montrose and Altadena reported two inches. Snow flurries in Los Angeles force to helicopter mail planes, heading for downtown, to turn back to the municipal airport.
Snow at Palm Springs
The soft, white topping even stretched out into the Colorado desert area — as far as Twentynine Plams and Palm Springs. The latter, which was built upon the reputation of sunshine and winter warmth, found some three inches of snow on the ground.
Traffic officers were swarmed under the work last night, working against the elements to keep the arteries through Southern California open to heavy traffic.
Crystal Springs grade, one mile east of Redlands on highway 99, was jammed up, with an estimated 500 cars blocked by a pair of heavy trucks, which jack-knifed across the highway.
Conditions of other highways were reported as follows: U.S. 66, closed from 40 miles east of Needles to Kingman, Ariz. No cars allowed without chains and only a few permitted to go through with police escort. U.S. 91, sloppy, with snow falling along the entire route from Cajon pass to the Nevada border. U.S. 66, California highway patrol enforcing chain regulations through Cajon pass. California 138, also open, but only to cars with chains. Cajon pass had six inches of snow on the crest.
Four Feet at Big Bear
In the mountains it was much the same story, with the Rim of the World drive open, but narrow in places between walls of banked snow — and chains a must. Both the roads between Lake Arrowhead and the Mojave desert and between Camp Seeley and Cedar Springs were closed.
At Big Bear Lake, 24 inches of snow whistled in on top of a previous heavy fall, bringing the total to nearly four feet. Lake Arrowhead reported more than three feet for the storm, with Crestline winding up with 24 inches.
Chains were required on the Ridge route between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. Newhall reported six inches of snow.
Beaumont and Banning, in San Gorgonio pass, reported 5 and 7 inches of snow. The Jackrabbit trail to Riverside was closed except to cars with chains.
Highgrove was blacked out from 9 to 11 Sunday night when snow-weighted tree limbs fell across Southern California Edison Co. power lines.
Las Vegas, Nev., with three inches on the ground, said it was the first snow there since 1939. Far to the south, Imperial valley residents were startled to see a snowstorm.
One of the victims of the stormy weather was Mrs. Frank Parks, caretaker at the Weeshaw club, just south of Seven Oaks, who suffered for several hours Sunday with a broken leg before rangers and a Redlands doctor could make their way through driving snow and blocked roads to the mountain resort.
Ranger Lynn Horton of the Mill creek station, Dr. C.T. Halburg and Chet Nash, assistant fire control officer, drove to Camp Angelus where a snow plow was obtained to clear seven miles of road between Barton Flats and Seven Oaks before the victim was reached.
Redlands school children were among those happy about the whole situation. The superintendent of schools dismissed classes yesterday and said the rooms would be dark until Thursday.
Mt. San Antonio college near Pomona will be closed today and tomorrow. Bonita High school closed yesterday for an indefinite time. Pomona and Claremont public schools, which were closed two days last week, may shut down again today. Most students are tending smudge pots during freezing nights.
Five bodies were taken yesterday from the wreckage of an airplane in the mountains 50 miles northeast of San Diego. Snow was still falling — a continuation of the blizzard in which the private plane crashed Sunday.
Three married couples were aboard, coming to San Diego from a Palm Springs week end.
Mrs. Dorothy Madelaine Baer of Los Angeles, the only survivor, was in a serious condition in a hospital at Escondido.
The dead wore tentatively identified as:
Charles W. Miller, Los Angeles manufacturer, and his wife, Lorraine; Merald B. Baer, reported to be sales manager for Miller's concern; Bernard A. Laberge, official of a San Diego concern, and his wife, Jeanne.
Deputy sheriffs yesterday failed in their attempt to free nine Girl Scouts and five adults snowbound in their camp on the edge of Cuyamaca lake east of San Diego.
California lawmakers moved yesterday to give relief to frost-damaged agriculture areas.
Two bills were introduced in the assembly to declare moratoriums on mortgages, liens and taxes in frost affected areas.
In the senate, Senator Nelson Dilworth, Hemet, proposed a bill to give hard-hit farmers two years to pay taxes without penalties.
Assemblyman Thomas J. Doyle, Los Angeles, proposed a moratorium on mortgages and liens on both crops and farm lands. Assemblyman R. Fred Price, Upland, introduced a bill calling for a tax moratorium in frost-affected districts.
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Southland Still Shivers.
Long Beach Independent | January 26, 1949.
Another cool night was recorded for Long Beach Tuesday. At 9:30 the temperature was 45 degrees at the municipal airport, with a slight wind from the north. Increasing wind was forecast.
The U.S. Weather Bureau said at Los Angeles partial cloudiness would be accompanied by below-freezing temperatures in many sections of the Southland.
Floyd D. Young of the fruit frost service said lowest temperatures in citrus districts would be about 20.
Snow fell in virtually all Southern California mountain areas and traffic was blocked in many areas Tuesday.
Heavy rain fell near the Mexican border, and in the mountains near San Diego an Indian was found frozen to death, and a prospector was badly frostbitten.
In the Big Bear mountain area, schools were closed. Fifteen inches of snow fell in 24 hours to add to the six to eight feet of snow already on the ground.
Blizzard conditions were reported from Buckhorn, Charlton and Chilao, Crystal Lake and Mount Waterman. The storm was continuing in the Beaumont-Banning area.
Snow also fell on Catalina Island, at Newhall, Palmdale, Victorville and Barstow.
San Diego was warned gas service might be curtailed.
The weatherman blamed it all on the upper air, which he said was 38 degrees below zero at 20,000 feet.