A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year’s.
Giddy residents in Southern California foothills snapped photos of snow-covered lawns as kids tossed snowballs. In suburban Phoenix, swimming pools and cactus-lined backyards were dusted with the white stuff.
Those planning to usher in 2015 along the Las Vegas Strip or watch flower-decorated floats in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, were bracing for near-freezing temperatures.
Marco Berri, 26, of Brazil said he would likely buy some scarves and gloves to keep warm in Las Vegas, but the cold wouldn’t keep him inside.
“We’re gonna be in the street. It doesn’t matter how cold it is,” said Berri, one of about 340,000 revelers expected to pack the Strip and the downtown Fremont area on New Year’s Eve.
The storm swept from California into the Mojave Desert and Las Vegas, bringing snow to parts of northern Arizona and New Mexico along the way.
Ice and snow also made roads and highways dangerous along the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma.
Gusting winds toppled trees throughout California, killing at least three people in the state in recent days.
Two people were killed and a third was missing after winds broke boats loose from moorings at Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California.
More than 180 motorists were rescued after they were stranded by the snow on mountain highways northeast of Los Angeles.
Still, many Southern Californians were excited to see snow at their front door.
Temecula City Manager Aaron Adams said his 12- and 14-year-old daughters were sledding outside his home on bodyboards usually reserved for the beach or pool. He said he has never seen as much snow – half a foot in some places – in the two decades he has lived there.
“You’d think you woke up in Tahoe or something,” Adams said. “Our Old Town looks like a ski town.”
In Flagstaff, Arizona, as much as 15 inches of snow was expected by New Year’s Day.
Pasadena city officials urged parade-goers to come ready with layers of clothing and foot- and hand-warmers.
The cold snap could impact the famous floral floats in the parade. Some of the tropical flowers could turn black, and float builders were using twice the normal amount of glue to affix flowers because of the cold, said Charles Meier, creative director for Paradiso Parade Floats.
“This is a very unique business that really depends on one day a year, and that one day we have no control over the weather,” Meier said.
In Carlsbad, New Mexico, a sold-out New Year’s Eve party was postponed until Friday due to slick, icy roads. Party planner Ric Serrano said a supply truck carrying the party’s alcohol crashed en route to the event, but that wasn’t the reason for the cancellation.
California citrus growers appeared to pull through the storm unscathed. Potentially damaging cold failed to materialize overnight in most areas, and only a few spots requiring some form of frost protection, said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.
Seventy-five percent of this year’s crop was still on trees and yet to be harvested, he said.