Originally published December 7, 2013 at 11:13 a.m., updated December 7, 2013 at 2:40 p.m.
A winter storm was expected to bring gusty wind and significant amounts of snow to parts of San Diego County's mountains starting Saturday, meteorologists said.
Snow and icy roads were predicted for Interstate 8 between Alpine and Jacumba, and the National Weather Service suggested emergency travel only towards El Centro. The NWS scheduled a winter storm warning from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., for mountain areas of East and North County.
North of Los Angeles, snow briefly closed both the Tejon and Tehachapi passes, leaving only U.S. 101 through Ventura and Salinas open for undelayed road travel between San Diego and Northern California. CHP units began to allow packs of vehciles to travel slowly over both passes during the noon hour.
At midday, Interstate 15 towards Las Vegas had freezing rain at Cajon Pass, and snow flurries at Mountain Pass, near the Nevada line.
Snowfall was expected to grow heavier in the afternoon, NWS forecasters said. Precipitation was expected to decrease from north to south Saturday night.
Between 2 and 4 inches of snow could accumulate at altitudes greater than 3,500 feet, and up to 8 inches could fall in areas above 5,000 feet. Even more snow may fall at Mt. Laguna and peaks around 7,000 feet, according to the NWS.
Interstate 8 has three summits above the 4,000-foot level in East County, and the freeway towards Arizona is frequently restricted to chains and 25 mile-per-hour traffic, or closed, in such weather. Heavy winds were noted at midday, but the road was clear, CHP officers said.
In addition to the snow, areas of west winds between 20-30 mph, with gusts of up to 50 mph are possible, forecasters said. Blowing snow and fog could reduce motorists' visibility.
The NWS advised mountain residents and travelers to be prepared for hazardous winter weather and possible road closures, and to carry tire chains, extra food and water, clothing and a flashlight, if possible.
"Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous,'' the winter storm warning stated. "Only travel through the mountains in case of an emergency.''
Strong gusty winds of 20-30 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph are also expected in the deserts, according to the NWS. A high wind warning is in effect for desert areas through 4 a.m. Sunday.
The desert winds could also impact drivers, especially those with high-profile vehicles, and could blow debris and broken tree limbs into the roadway, forecasters said.
Rain showers were expected along the coast and in the valleys Saturday, according to the NWS.