SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A late-winter storm chilled and soaked the San Diego area Friday, bringing widespread downpours, stiff winds and heavy mountain snowfall.
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The unsettled atmospheric system out of the Pacific Northwest delivered plentiful precipitation across the county through the morning and into the mid-afternoon, when the showers began to dwindle in coastal and inland-valley communities, according to the National Weather Service.
As of 5 p.m., the east-moving dark clouds had dropped anywhere from a few hundredths of an inch to around an inch and a half of rain, the NWS reported.
By then, Otay Mountain had gotten 1.55 inches of moisture; Oceanside, 1.49; Escondido, 1.48; Valley Center, 1.31; Fallbrook, 1.28; Encinitas, 1.24; Campo, 1.16; Descanso, 1.13; Lindbergh Field, 1.02; La Mesa, 0.87; Point Loma and San Ysidro, 0.79; Flinn Springs, 0.44; and San Marcos, 0.4.
Predictably, the wet conditions ushered in a spate of traffic troubles on the region's roadways. Between midnight and 6 p.m., the California Highway Patrol logged 343 crashes. By comparison, the agency generally responds to 50-75 local accidents over an entire day of fair weather.
In the East County highlands, the blustery conditions -- which included sustained winds as high as 25 mph and gusts up to 50 mph -- were expected to persist into early Saturday morning. The snow level was likely to drop to between 2,500 and 3,000 feet above sea level over the period, with four to 12 inches of frozen white flakes accumulating from 4,000 to 5,500 feet, and 12 to 22 inches above 5,500 feet, according to forecasters.
Due to the extent of the snowfall, all schools in the Julian and Mountain Empire school districts were closed today, giving youngsters a jump on a weekend of frolicking in the frosty mountains.
The Mount Laguna sledding park was dry and bare on Thursday, but on Friday there was so much fresh snow it was hard to walk in the area.
Lakeside resident Pete Pease told News 8's Shannon Handy he got stuck in the snow even though his car has four-wheel drive.
"It took about 20 minutes. When I got out, I saw a snow plow go up that road," Pease said.
Driver Jesse True and her sister planned ahead by bringing chains, something required by the CHP.
"I've never driven on snow before. It will be a new experience," she said.
The potential for blizzard-like conditions prompted the weather service to caution motorists using the eastern stretches of Interstate 8 to exercise extra caution due to the likelihood of slippery roadways and poor visibility.
For mariners, the NWS scheduled a 24-hour small craft ocean advisory, starting at 8 a.m.