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Yes, That Was Snow: January 29, 2002

Editor's Note: More recent snowfall has occurred on November 21, 2004.

If you were in and about the Temecula Valley on January 29, 2002, you probably experienced it. Freak weather conditions and a very cold Alaska storm brought hail, light rain, and yes, snow, to the valley. The snowfall was brief and undramatic, and it melted as soon as it reached the ground, but the snowflakes were unmistakable, as was people's excitement. The last time it snowed here in the valley, to the best of my information, was apparently 1985. And this was for sure the first snowfall I've seen in eight years of living in the Temecula Valley.

Temecula Snow - 2002

Where were you when it snowed? I was at the Promenade in Temecula shopping mall at noon, and when I walked outside, at first I thought hail was coming down but it was too soft. It was snow! Later, driving home, it turned to a mixture of snow and hail, then to the pitter patter of hail, and finally to light rain. The temperature at the time had dipped down to 40°F, but the earth was so warm the snow and hail melted on contact.

More snow was reported near Winchester Road at about 1:50 pm. Temecula Valley High School students were greeted with snow fall followed by hail as school ended at 2:40pm. Snow was reported at Ynez Road and Pauba Road at 3:15pm. An eyewitness report there said big wet flakes were followed by a mixture of snow and hail, then hail and rain, and finally just rain. And the photos you see with this story were taken west of Temecula, up on the Santa Rosa Plateau, near the intersection of Sandia Road and De Luz Road, at about noon, about the time I experienced snowfall and hail near Winchester Road and Ynez Road.

Later in the day, the entire north face of Agua Tibia was visible to the south, white with snow nearly all the way down, and the clouds still showering snow down on it.

Temecula Snow - 2002

What a day January 29th was! The Gulf of Alaska storm that moved through the area was so cold that it is the coldest recorded day in history by more than three degrees at this writing, and it is the only recorded day with an average temperature of less than 40°F. And this was in addition to the first snow in the Temecula Valley since 1985. The most famous snow occurrence in the 20th century occurred in 1949. Coastal areas of California, as well as the Temecula Valley, received a blanket of snow that day.

Many thanks to Sheldon Otto for providing the photos featured in this story. Eyewitness accounts provided by Jim Toman, Scott Bram, and Brent Schmidt. Discussions about snow and other weather events in Temecula and the surrounding areas, as well as daily forecasts and frost alerts, are all topics of the email list.

See a list of all features, including fires, snow, hail and other events, on the features page.

The Temecula weather pages are a service of WeatherCurrents. Temecula, California is located in the Temecula Valley, in southwestern Riverside County, along the Interstate 15 highway. The Temecula Valley's rolling hills are home to the Temecula wine country, vineyards, golf courses, a casino resort, and Old Town Temecula.
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