The Los Angeles snow of 1949 was a rare and unusual event in the city’s history. On January 9th and 10th, 1949, a snowstorm hit the city and the surrounding areas, causing chaos and excitement among the residents.
The snowstorm was caused by a weather pattern that brought cold air from Canada and Alaska down to Southern California, where it met with a low-pressure system moving in from the Pacific Ocean
The result was a snowstorm that dropped up to 4 inches of snow in some areas of Los Angeles, and even more in some of the surrounding mountains.
The snow caused widespread disruption and excitement, with schools closing, highways becoming blocked, and people flocking to parks and hillsides to play in the snow.
Many residents, especially those who had never experienced snow before, were thrilled by the novelty of the event, while others were less happy about the disruption to their daily lives.
The newspapers of the time reported extensively on the snowstorm, with headlines such as “Snowstorm Paralyzes Southland,” “Southland Shivers Under Blanket of Snow,” and “Record Snowfall Delights and Inconveniences Angelenos.”
In 1999, on the 50th anniversary of the 1949 snowfall, Los Angeles Times columnist Cecilia Rasmussen wrote:
On Jan. 10, 1949, in the middle of the worst housing shortage in Los Angeles history, more than half an inch of snow covered the Civic Center. The San Fernando Valley was pelted with the unfamiliar white stuff for three days, accumulating almost a foot.
The Rose Bowl was transformed into “a dishpan full of milk,” by one account. An Alhambra hardware store put up a sign that said, “Snow Plows for Rent — Hurry!” A snowman appeared in Eagle Rock, wearing a sombrero, and the city of Reno, Nev., sent L.A. a snow shovel.
Other fun-seekers toted sleds, inner tubes — almost every imaginable means of transport on a coat of snow that fell soft as confectioner’s sugar as far away as Catalina.
Angelenos were forced to exchange their shorts and coconut oil for bulky jackets and gloves as flatland suburbanites scraped ice off windshields and downtown workers cursed the city’s hilly terrain.
The rare snowfall produced wondrous vistas and unexpected difficulties, as some motorists besieged with frozen radiators were trapped in their cars in Laurel Canyon for several hours. Farther north, the engine of crooner Bing Crosby’s green Cadillac froze near Castroville, where a kind motorist gave him a lift into town.
Snowball fights were fun and harmless, until three teenage boys began throwing snowballs at a streetcar stopped at Washington Boulevard and Hoover Street, breaking a window and injuring a woman passenger.
(Photo credit: Los Angeles Public Library / Los Angeles Times / Wikimedia Commons).