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Storm system brings mix of snow, wind to Inland Empire mountains

February 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A cold Pacific storm system brought a mixture of heavy snow and strong winds to the Inland Empire mountains Wednesday.

Heavy to moderate snowfall blanketed the region through most of the morning and afternoon, with some areas seeing fresh powder as low as 3,500 feet.

Between the heavy traffic and wet roads, it was a dangerous, yet slow go on Interstate 15.

"I'm hydroplaning... I'm jerking, so both hands on the wheel," said Gina Covarrubias of Riverside.

The California Highway Patrol began escorting motorists on the highway around 1 p.m. The CHP said drivers should be prepared for more escorts, depending on what the storm does.

"People should expect slow, heavy traffic because the CHP will slow traffic down behind Caltrans as they are spreading cinders on the highway and/or plowing snow," CHP Officer Brad Newman said.

Chains were required for drivers in Big Bear, where the snowfall was heavy at times.

Despite blizzard-like conditions, residents and business owners were delighted with the snow.

The last significant accumulation of natural snow happened in December. Since then, the only snow churned out has been by snow-making machines at the ski resorts.

"This is the really deal right here," said Chris Riddle of Big Bear Mountain Resorts. "This is a cold snow storm and we're expecting to get 6, may be 8 inches of fresh powder here for today and tonight."

Low clouds made hitting the slopes at Snow Summit ski resort difficult because of reduced visibility at the top of the mountain. Even so, it didn't stop the diehard snow enthusiasts from trying to make a day of it.

"You can't really see much, but good snow finally," said Claudio Marfi, who was visiting from Italy.

A high-wind warning was in effect from through 1 p.m. Friday in the Inland Empire.