A fast-moving storm began dousing the Southland today just as the morning commute was getting under way, contributing to an increase in the number of freeway accidents in Los Angeles County, authorities said.
Before it clears out later today, the storm is also expected to produce rough seas, high surf, heavy snow above the 6,000-foot level and fierce winds in mountain areas and the Antelope Valley -- but no rain-triggered landslides in areas previously denuded by wildfire.
Between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., there were 81 accidents reported on freeways in Los Angeles County compared with 47 during two weeks ago, when it did not rain, said California Highway Patrol Officer Jennifer Connelly. Last Monday morning's commute is not statistically comparable because it coincided with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Between one third and two thirds of an inch of rain is expected in the Greater Los Angeles area, according to the National Weather Service.
NWS meteorologist Rich Thompson said he expected steady rain this morning turning to showers this afternoon, when there also will be a slight chance of a thunderstorm. After that, dry and sharply warmer weather is expected for the rest of the week and beyond.
In the meantime, California Highway Patrol Officer Patrick Kimball expressed the hope commuters would beware of the rainy conditions.
"Slow down and leave more room when it is raining because it will take longer to stop," he said.
The snow level is expected to drop to between 5,000 and 6,000 feet today, "with significant snowfall expected above 6,000 feet," according to an NWS advisory.
The NWS forecast moderate to heavy snowfall from mid-morning through mid- afternoon, producing six to 10 inches of snow above 6,000 feet. Also expected are winds of sustained speeds of between 20 and 30 miles per hour, gusting to 50 mph.
"The combination of snowfall and gusty winds will produce hazardous winter weather conditions across the mountains of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, with reduced visibilities in snow and blowing snow as well as snow- covered roadways," it said.
A winter storm warning denoting an expectation of perilous conditions will be in effect until 8 tonight in the Los Angeles and Ventura county portions of the San Gabriel Mountains.