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January 6, 1955 — A one-day storm that dumped half an inch of rain on Los Angeles, 0.39 inches in Saugus and 0.3 inches in Newhall also buried Hotel Lebec under 9 inches of snow and closed the Ridge Route. Seasonal rainfall totals were still sub-normal but were well ahead of the preceding dry winter of 1953-54.
Associated Press wire photo, 9x6.5 inches (with border), from the Fresno Bee archive, published January 7, 1955. Caption as published reads:
STORM SCENE — The hotel at Lebec, a familiar landmark to Ridge Route motorists, resembles a confectioner's castle of sugar in its gleaming white setting. The storm left a nine inch coating.
AP Wirephottos [sic]
Snow and Ice Clog Major Highways.
Storm Closes Ridge Route for Six Hours; Section of Angeles Forest Road Blocked.
The Los Angeles Times | Friday, January 7, 1955.
Snow and ice last night clogged four major Southern California highways, closing the Ridge Route for six hours, completely jamming Angeles Forest Highway and slowing traffic to a crawl on two others, during a storm that pelted Los Angeles with .50 inch of cold rain.
California Highway Patrol officers described the blockade of busy U.S. Highway 99 through the Tehachapis to Bakersfield as heavy.
However, by 10:15 p.m. the Ridge Route was reported open only to passenger cars with tire chains, light trucks without trailers and busses [sic]. Ice was still thick on the highway, but most of the snow had been removed.
Completely blockaded by a heavy snowfall was the mountain road from Angeles Crest Highway to the Mint Canyon road at Vincent, a section of Angeles Forest Highway known as the Palmdale cutoff.
Also jammed with slow-moving vehicles were Highway 6 from Mint Canyon to Palmdale and U.S. Highway 66 over Cajon Pass from San Bernardino.
Chains were mandatory on all mountain roads in the Southland. The Mint Canyon route was under one-way control because of a two-inch coating of ice on the pavement.
Minor accidents caused by flipping cars and trucks slowed traffic even further, patrolmen reported.
Mountain communities received a heavy blanket of snow at most elevations above 3,000 feet. Winter sports conditions were said to be excellent at all resort areas.
In Los Angeles the driving rain was followed by gusty winds in the late afternoon. More than a dozen trees were felled by the gusts, and several neighborhoods underwent brief blackouts as wires were knocked down.
At the west end of the San Fernando Valley, snow whitened the Granada Hills. Snow also crept down the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains to within several hundred yards of the upper reaches of Altadena and Montrose.
Starts Before Dawn.
Los Angeles' .50-inch rain began in the chilly hours before dawn and continued intermittently throughout the day until early afternoon. It was driven by gusts of wind ranging up to 30 miles an hour.
The rainfall brought the city's season total to 4.01 inches, as compared to 1.10 last year and a normal of 5.46.
Some other precipitation figures included Altadena and Fontana, .61 inch; Glendale and Tujunga, .60; Pasadena and San Fernando, .58; Burbank, .53; Monrovia, .48, and San Gabriel, .33.
Streets in the Reseda area of San Fernando Valley were filled from curb to curb with runoff rainwater, but no flood damage was reported. Downtown Long Beach, San Pedro and South Bay communities had a brief pelting from hail in midafternoon.
The snow crept down to the 2,000-foot level in the northern interior deserts. The Antelope Valley communities of Palmdale and Lancaster received two to three inches of wet snow.
Small Craft Warnings.
Brisk winds sprang up as the sun broke through the clouds in midafternoon and the Weather Bureau ordered small craft warnings displayed along the coast from Point Conception to Newport Beach until 8 p.m. today. Winds of 20 to 30 m.p.h. with locally stronger gusts are anticipated.
The forecast is for scattered showers and continued cool temperatures today. Snow is expected down to 2,500 feet.
In Los Angeles yesterday the thermometer ranged only 4 deg. — from a low of 46 at 11:21 a.m. to a high of 50 at 2:35 p.m. Relative humidity was 93% at 10:15 a.m. and 66% at midnight.
The Air Pollution Control District predicted no smog today.
About the Lebec Hotel.
Harrison Scott in Californian Historian (Vol. 43 No. 4, Summer 1997) writes:
The last major structure in place during the highway's glory was the Lebec Hotel. Construction began Jan. 15, 1921, and it opened for business four months later, on May 21. The hotel was the brainchild of entrepreneur Thomas O'Brien, a saloon-keeper from Bakersfield. Financing for the opulent hotel was provided by Cliff Durant, an automobile manufacturer.
The Lebec hotel was a "complete gambling joint with a ball-room, rooms and apartments" during its heydays from 1925 to 1934. Clark Gable and his actress wife, Carole Lombard, as well as gangster Benny "Bugsy" Siegal, frequented the Lebec Hote1. A 1926 touring guide describes it: "Hotel Lebec is new and high class, 80 rooms, thoroughly modern single $2-$3, with bath $4, coffee shop open 24 hours."The Lebec Garage nearby was the largest and best equipped on the ridge. Labor was $1.75 an hour, increasing to $2.40 after 6 p.m.
Shortly after the hotel opened, Durant sold his interest to Foster Curry (son of the concessionaire at Yosemite) of San Francisco. Early postcards from this period show the hotel under its brief stint as "Curry's Lebec Lodge," once located along the west side of Lebec Road just north of the Lebec off-ramp.
The hotel fell into disrepair and was officially closed on November 13, 1968, in response to health department charges concerning its substandard water system and dilapidated condition. The hotel went into receivership and was purchased by the Tejon Ranch Company. They torched the hotel and demolished the remains on April 27, 1971, only two weeks after acquiring the property. Two tall Italian Cypress trees mark the former location.
Read more here.
LW3705: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2020 by Leon Worden.