LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thunder crashed and lightning struck as powerful thunderstorms moved swiftly through California Monday, briefly knocking out power to Los Angeles' airport and walloping the Sierra Nevada with blizzard conditions.
Commuter traffic slowed to a crawl on greater Los Angeles freeways as motorists, some pelted by hail, struggled to see roadways through the heavy rain and were confronted with flooded lanes. To the north, the California Highway Patrol said some San Francisco Bay Area roads were under more than a foot of water during the Monday morning commute. Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties saw about 11 inches of rain each over 72 hours.
Some flights were delayed after electricity was briefly knocked out in all terminals at Los Angeles International Airport. Backup systems kicked in and full power was restored within about an hour early Monday, according to LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles.
The second of two storms hit the northernmost part of the state Sunday evening and spread overnight, suggesting March will not be as parched as it was last month. Forecasters warned of strong winds, heavy rain and snow and dangerous breaking waves along the coast.
A seven-day total could approach 20 inches of rain in Northern California and up to 3 inches in the southern end of the state. In the Sierra Nevada, a blizzard forced authorities to close Interstate 80 at Donner Summit for several hours overnight. Forecasters warned of whiteout conditions because up to 2 inches of snow was falling per hour.
Sugar Bowl ski resort near Lake Tahoe saw 33 inches of snow at the summit overnight, said National Weather Service meteorologist Brian O'Hara.
Snow was expected at the 5,000-foot level in mountains of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Drivers on mountain passes, including the Grapevine section of Interstate 5, were cautioned about possibly icy conditions.
Over the weekend, Chia Xiong, 51, of Marysville, died in Yuba County after being trapped in a car that became submerged in floodwater on a highway.
The driver, who was able to get out of the car, was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, CHP Officer Jodie Beck said.
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