A winter storm was expected to bring significant snow to Riverside County's mountains starting Saturday, and already has closed freeway links to Northern California.
Snow and icy roads were predicted on Interstate 15 above the 3,500 feet elevation line, including Cajon Pass, and the National Weather Service suggested emergency travel only in the mountains. It scheduled a winter storm warning from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for mountain areas of Riverside County.
North and west of Riverside, snow closed both the Tejon and Tehachapi passes, leaving only U.S. 101 through Ventura and Salinas open for road travel between the Inland Empire and Northern California.
Snow was expected to begin falling in the Riverside County mountain areas this morning, and will grow heavier this afternoon, NWS forecasters said. Precipitation was expected to decrease from north to south tonight.
Between 2 and 4 inches of snow could accumulate at altitudes greater than 3,500 feet, and up to 8 inches could fall in areas above 5,000 feet. Even more snow may fall at San Jacinto Peak, mountain resort areas and peaks around 7,000 feet, according to the NWS.
In addition to the snow, areas of west winds between 20-30 mph, with gusts of up to 50 mph, were possible, forecasters said. Blowing snow and fog could reduce motorists' visibility.
The NWS advised mountain residents and travelers to be prepared for hazardous winter weather and possible road closures, and to carry tire chains, extra food and water, clothing and a flashlight, if possible.
"Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous," the winter storm warning stated. "Only travel through the mountains in case of an emergency."
Strong gusty winds of 20-30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph are also expected in the Coachella Valley, according to the NWS. A high wind warning is in effect for the area through 4 a.m. Sunday.
The strongest gusts are expected near the desert slopes, and north and east of Interstate 10.
The desert winds could also impact drivers, especially those with high- profile vehicles, and could blow debris and broken tree limbs into the roadway, forecasters said.
—City News Service