Thanksgiving storm makes for slippery roadways; heavy snow shuts down the Grapevine pass

A powerful storm out of the Gulf of Alaska began making its way into the Southland, making for a cold and soggy Thanksgiving.

The winter storm brought rain and snow to parts of SoCal. Interstate 5 along the Grapevine was closed in both directions early Thursday morning due to heavy snowfall. Around 1 p.m. southbound lanes began reopening as the California Highway Patrol started escorting traffic over the pass. About an hour later CHP began escorting drivers on the northbound lanes.

At about 8:20 p.m. Caltrans officials, along with CHP, fully closed the I-5 again as snow began to fall once again. Northbound lanes were closed at Lake Hughes Road and southbound lanes were closed at Grapevine, Caltrans District 7 said. SoCal residents traveling north detoured at Westbound state Route 126 and connect at the northbound 101 Freeway.

In a sign of everchanging conditions, by 9:30 p.m., Caltrans District 7 announced that all southbound lanes of the I-5 were open at Grapevine with CHP beginning to escort vehicles on the northbound I-5.

This year Caltrans installed a new swinging gate to help with congestion during the winter months. The heavily reinforced steel swinging gate was installed in the center media in Castaic, allowing drivers to turn around back from the northbound 5 Freeway onto the southbound direction. Its first day of operation was on Thanksgiving, Caltrans spokesman Eric Menjivar said.

Travelers were able to take Highway 14 or the 101 Freeway as a detour.

California Highway Patrol continued to monitor the 58 Freeway and kept traffic moving at a safe speed, the Mojave division tweeted

The Thanksgiving storm was expected to produce enough rainfall in the Southland Thursday to push the seasonal precipitation totals to near-normal levels while bringing snow to the mountains and Antelope Valley, causing rough seas and wreaking havoc on the region's roads, forecasters said

National Weather Service Meteorologist Curt Kaplan said the coastal areas could get one-half to one inch more rain with 2 to 4 inches in the mountains and foothills, 6 to 12 inches of snow in most mountain locations but between 12 and 24 inches in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Most mountain areas will get 6 to 12 inches of snow, which includes 3-6 inches in the Grapevine. The amount of snow could snarl Interstate 5 -- but up to 24 inches of snow is expected to accumulate at higher elevations.

The snow level will drop to 2,500-3,000 feet tonight, according to the weather service.

The snow became disruptive earlier than was expected, forecasters said. Shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, Caltrans announced that a section of state Route 2 was closed from state Route 39 to "2.3 miles west of Big Pines" in the Angeles National Forest due to snow.

A winter storm warning will be in effect until 4 p.m. today in the Santa Ana Mountains, and spreading across some parts of Orange County.

Also in force in Orange County -- both inland and coastal areas -- is a flash flood watch, which will remain through this evening.

A NWS map shows 1 1/2 to 2 inches of rain is expected along the Orange County coast and 2 to 3 inches were expected inland.

Total snowfall accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are expected between 4,000 and 4,500 feet, 6 to 18 inches from 4,500 to 5,500 feet, and from 1 to 3 feet above 5,500 feet, said the weather service. Snowfall at lower elevations below 4,000 feet will be of 1 to 3 inches, late today through Friday.

As of 1 a.m. today, downtown Los Angeles had gotten 1.12 inches of rain. The normal rainfall for this time of year 1.57 inches, Kaplan said. 

The weather this rainy season will not be influenced by an El Nino warm water condition or its cool sister La Nina, Kaplan said. 

El Nino is linked to warming sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific, according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, while a La Nina is a period of below-average sea surface temperatures.

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FOX 11's Kelli Johnson contributed to this report.