SD County chilled, soaked by storm; wind gusts expected to persist in some areas

CHP:More than 300 crashes logged on wet roadways

SAN DIEGO - A late-winter storm chilled and soaked the San Diego area Friday, bringing widespread downpours, stiff winds and heavy mountain snowfall.

The unsettled atmospheric system out of the Pacific Northwest delivered plentiful precipitation across the county through the morning and into the mid-afternoon, when the showers began to dwindle in coastal and inland-valley communities, according to the National Weather Service.

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The east-moving dark clouds had dropped anywhere from a few hundredths of an inch to around an inch and a half of rain, the NWS reported.

Otay Mountain had gotten 1.55 inches of moisture; Oceanside, 1.49; Escondido, 1.48; Valley Center, 1.31; Fallbrook, 1.28; Encinitas, 1.24; Campo, 1.16; Descanso, 1.13; Lindbergh Field, 1.02; La Mesa, 0.87; Point Loma and San Ysidro, 0.79; Flinn Springs, 0.44; and San Marcos, 0.4.

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Predictably, the wet conditions ushered in a spate of traffic troubles on the region's roadways. Between midnight and 6 p.m., the California Highway Patrol logged 343 crashes. By comparison, the agency generally responds to 50-75 local accidents over an entire day of fair weather.

In the East County highlands, the blustery conditions -- which included sustained winds as high as 25 mph and gusts up to 40 mph -- were expected to persist into early Saturday morning. The snow level was likely to drop to between 2,500 and 3,000 feet above sea level over the period, with four to 12 inches of frozen white flakes accumulating from 4,000 to 5,500 feet, and 12 to 22 inches above 5,500 feet, according to forecasters.

Marine Jason Collins and several of his friends spent Thursday night in a soft-top Jeep near near Lake Cuyamaca. They said they wanted to test their limits by braving the freezing temperatures with only a can of sardines to eat, but they ran into one problem.

"We didn't secure one of the soft-top windows, so there was snow and rain pouring in all night, and it was just freezing the whole time," Collins' friend William Arns-Vazquez said. "I think my legs went numb half the night."

"It was raining and then hailing at some point and everything I was wearing was just soaked," Collins said. "It was really cold -- it sucked."

Due to the extent of the snowfall, all schools in the Julian and Mountain Empire school districts were closed Friday.

The frosty conditions also prompted the weather service to caution motorists using the eastern stretches of Interstate 8 to exercise extra caution due to the potential for slippery roadways and poor visibility.

For mariners, the NWS scheduled a 24-hour small craft ocean advisory, starting at 8 a.m.

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