Saturday, Jan. 23, brought what many thought was a rare dusting of snow to Malibu Canyon, but was actually just hail.
“It wasn’t snow,” John Dumas, a public information officer of the National Weather Service’s outpost in Oxnard, said with a small laugh. “There is snow up on I-5, on the Grapevine and at higher elevation, but the stuff we got down here was basically a form of hail.”
Dumas said that the weather event was not out of the ordinary for Malibu during a La Niña year like this.
“It was a very cold system that came through,” Dumas said. “We’re used to seeing downdrafts. You get heavy rain for 10 to 15 minutes, and this was just a bit colder, so it came down as hail this time.”
Regardless of what it was, the weather created both delight and danger. According to a California Highway Patrol officer interviewed by the LA Times, some drivers pulled over near Malibu Canyon to play in the hail, which the officer advised was “dangerous.”
CHP’s West Valley division also posted a message on their social media telling drivers to “stop driving like it’s not raining.”
That same day, around 11:25 a.m., a white sedan drove over the side of Kanan Dume Road and someone who was in the car had to be airlifted to UCLA Medical Center with a major injury; later, a black Jeep overturned around 3:30 p.m. on Malibu Canyon Road.
Reached by phone on Monday, Jan. 25, CHP West Valley Public Information Officer Weston Haver said he could not confirm whether or not the inclement weather had caused the crashes, rather than a vehicle failure or distracted driving.
But he concurred with Dumas that the precipitation was hail.
“I talked to two of the officers that were out there, they said it was hail; one said it could have been hail with a little bit of snow,” Haver said. Further, he said that the officers reported that the temperatures were “pretty cold out there” and that the hail “stuck around on the ground for a couple of hours.”
Haver said that CHP would not be amping up its presence out on the roads in response to the weather, which was expected to worsen throughout the week.
“Usually, with our weather systems in Malibu, the storm moves so quickly that by the time it snows, an hour later or so, it’s already gone,” the officer described.
The National Weather Service forecasted more rain for the next week. Dumas said he expected the area to receive an inch-and-a-half to two inches of rain from Tuesday, Jan. 26, through Friday, Jan. 29.
Haver advised drivers to slow down whether they were experiencing rain, fog, snow or ice because vehicles are not able to stop as quickly under wet conditions. He recommended driving at speeds under posted limits, leaving plenty of space between one’s car and other vehicles and checking the traction on one’s tires and that one’s wiper blades are good to go before hitting the road.