Malibu locals surprised when weather turns from sunshine to snow

Chaffin Mitchell
·5 min read

Shortly after enjoying temperatures rising into the 80s, Malibu, California, residents were in for a treat on Saturday when a rare snowfall dusted the area. Surprised drivers pulled over to witness the strange sight and play in the thin layer of snow. Hail and rain were also spotted across parts of Los Angeles and northwest of Oxnard, California, over the weekend.

The California Highway Patrol department received a report of multiple drivers who stopped and parked near the Malibu Canyon Tunnel shortly after 5 p.m., on Saturday evening, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"They were playing in the snow," California Highway Patrol Officer Stephan Brandt said, who warned such activities were "dangerous" and unwise.

The unexpected snowfall caught drivers off guard and may have also contributed to a couple of car accidents in the area.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m. PDT on Saturday, a jeep overturned on Malibu Canyon Road, the Los Angeles Times said. The driver was safe and no injuries were reported, however, another wreck near Newton Canyon ended much worse. One person was airlifted to a local hospital after a sedan drove over the side of the road on Kanan Dume Road near Newton Canyon at 11:25 a.m. PDT. The person's condition is unknown at this time.

California Highway Patrol in Malibu monitoring road conditions and warning residents to drive carefully. (Image via California Highway Patrol Twitter/CHPWestValley)

"We're asking that people drive slower than normal. There's black ice out there and the road can be slippery," Lt. Gregory Evans, of the Sheriff's Department's Lost Hills station said on Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Those who stayed off the roads during the rare occurrence took to social media to share pictures and videos as proof of the snowfall.

Pepperdine University's student-run newspaper called Pepperdine Graphic, shared images of the snow-covered roadways which included a plow truck removing snow from the roads.

"The highest elevation where this took place, Malibu Canyon Road, is about 500 feet above sea level and weaves in and out of the higher terrain east of the Californian coast. The wintry precipitation that fell in this canyon in Malibu California is what is known as "graupel"," AccuWeather Meteorologist Nicole LoBiondo said.

According to LoBiondo, graupel is formed when a snowflake falls and supercooled water droplets form around that snowflake and form a small, soft ball of ice.

"The temperatures at the surface along this canyon road must have been near freezing, which allowed for these ice pellets to fall and accumulate on untreated surfaces. Also due to the lack of sunshine on Saturday in the area, surfaces did not get a chance to absorb the sun's radiation and therefore, remained around the same temperature as the ambient air temperature," LoBiondo said.


The last time locals were lucky enough to see snow fall in Malibu was almost exactly 14 years ago in 2007.

"On Jan. 17, 2007, a large storm came barreling for California from the west that allowed for cold air to filter into the L.A. Basin. This storm brought rain to the area, but with lower-than-average temperatures and falling snow levels, some precipitation fell as snow not only in the higher terrain that surrounds Los Angeles, but also in valley and beach locations like Malibu and western L.A.," LoBiondo said.

Nearly one month ago, a large storm rolled in from the coast and brought another rare snowfall to the Southern California area.

"We're what, three hours from L.A.? Two hours from L.A.? This is crazy, do you see how big these are?" Long Beach Resident Suzy Caruana told ABC 7, gesturing to the large snowflakes falling around her.

"I'm headed up to Sacramento to visit my daughter and grandchildren, and I got this," Sophia Glover, a San Diego resident, told the news station, holding her palm up and out her parked car's window to catch the snow. "I'm enjoying it. I've never seen snow."

The storm later pushed eastward, spilling into Arizona where a drone captured video of snowfall across Flagstaff. Maria Mendez, a resident of Yuma, Arizona, also caught her first glimpse of snow in person.

"Oh my God, I've never seen snow, this is my first time seeing snow, or touching it because in Arizona there's nothing but desert," she said.

The storm not only brought a rare glimpse of snow to parts of Southern California but also delivered the first significant rainfall for Southern California's rainy season.

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