California Struck by Historic Blizzard

By: Colin Schroyer

February 28, 2022: Starting on Thursday, February 23, and continuing into the following days, the state of California was hit by a historic blizzard in the nation’s most significant winter storm. All along the west coast, this storm brought rain, floods, power outages, and up to five feet of snow in some areas.

The National Weather Service, for counties across California, had to declare a blizzard warning on Thursday as the state prepared to brace for the storm. For Los Angeles County, this was the first blizzard warning to be issued since 1989; for the San Diego area, the first blizzard warning ever. The blizzard warning in mountainous Ventura and Los Angeles counties lasted until 4 p.m. local time Saturday.

The storm originated as the product of a low-pressure system from the north and moving Southeast, bringing over 10 inches of snow to Oregon on Thursday as it continued moving toward California and surrounding states.

The storm began with heavy rainfall, with parts of the Los Angeles area reporting between 10 and 15 inches of rain by early Saturday morning. Many areas, primarily coastal cities, had issued flood warnings in warning of these adverse weather conditions.

The temperature dropped early Friday, and the rainfall transitioned to snowfall, bringing two to four inches of snow before the blizzard struck. Across California, lower elevation areas experienced roughly 6 to 12 inches of snow while mountainous areas, with elevations of over 4,000 feet, expected to receive 2 to 5 feet of snow and up to 8 feet. Low visibility and high winds were also reported, with wind speeds ranging from thirty to seventy-five miles per hour, depending on elevation and location.

Due to these precarious conditions, many roads were closed due to the blizzard. Interstate 5 — a major north-south highway along the west coast — shut down for the safety of drivers. Much of Interstate 80 within California also closed. As roads began to reopen on Friday and Saturday, police monitored and controlled traffic to ensure driver safety.

By Saturday morning, weather conditions warmed to approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit across the whole state of California. As the temperature warmed, the snow returned to rain as flash flood warnings were issued for Los Angeles and Ventura counties, remaining in effect until 1 to 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Certain parts of lower-elevation areas have already experienced flooding, such as streets in North Hollywood.

California and states along the West Coast weren’t the only ones affected. The storm has also rolled in along the North, most prominently inundating Michigan, among other states. Along with below-freezing weather, much of the state struggled with power outages. Over 700,000 homes and businesses lost power due to the storm. While there were promises that power would be restored by Sunday, freezing temperatures and mixed snowfall wracked much of the state.

Bizarrely, at this same time, other parts of the United States experienced a heat wave and record-high temperatures for February. Washington, D.C., had record highs of 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and similar eighty-degree weather was reported in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Nashville.

In California, for regions where the storm has already passed, roads have begun to re-open, and efforts are being made to ensure safety in response to the harsh weather conditions. Los Angeles County will keep its emergency shelters open into March. Despite some of the dangers presented, many Californians used the weather to experience snowy activities that are not feasible in the typical California climate. Snow angels, snowmen, and snowballs are the silver lining to the stormy clouds that have passed over the country.

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