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January 12, 2021

Los Angeles Was Covered in Snow, Here Are 20 Vintage Photos of the Rare Snowfall in January 1949

Snow used to fall in L.A. about once every few years, but 1949 was one of the last, with up to a foot of snow falling in parts of the city. Smaller snows would be recorded in 1957 and 1962, but not a flake has fallen since and each year that passes, it becomes less and less likely that the city will ever see snow again.

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.

While we won’t be sitting around waiting for a blizzard to show up on the forecast, we can at least appreciate these images that show us just what a snow-covered city looked like in 1949:

Cars line up on Sepulveda Boulevard in Sherman Oaks while waiting for ice to melt before driving over a hill to the Beverly Hills area on January 12, 1949. Cars with chains were allowed through. At noon the road was opened. (Los Angeles Times)

An automobile parked near the Rose Bowl at Linda Vista Avenue and Lida Street sits covered with snow. (Al Humphreys / Los Angeles Times)

Patricia and James Perkins of Riverside, like most members of a new generation, see snow for the first time. (Los Angeles Times)

Snow covered a home on Opechee Way in the Verdugo Woodlands area of North Glendale. (Los Angeles Times)

Mrs. and Mr. Harvey Tibbals put the finishing touches on a snowman outside their La Crescenta Avenue home in Montrose. (Los Angeles Times)

Women rolling a giant snowball in a front yard in Bel-Air. (Clay Willcockson / Los Angeles Times)

Snow falls on Santa Barbara Avenue near Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles. In 1983, Santa Barbara Avenue was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Frank Brown / Los Angeles Times)

Ice on Gilmore Street in Van Nuys forced vehicles to travel at a crawl. (Los Angeles Times)

Man in Riverside examines snow on citrus trees on January 10, 1949. (Los Angeles Times)

A snowed-under walnut orchard on North Hazeltine Avenue in Van Nuys takes on a New England look. (Los Angeles Times)

A veritable wonderland greeted residents of Glendale early January 11, 1949, when they looked out windows and wondered what happened. (Los Angeles Public Library)

The 1949 snow storm transformed the San Fernando Valley community of Canoga Park into a winter wonderland. (USC Libraries)

Rocky chaparral foothills stand above a snowy Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena/La CaƱada Flintridge. (NASA/JPL Archive)

The San Gabriel community of Monterey Park after a 1949 snowstorm. (The Monterey Park History Collection)

Ladies building a snowman in North Hollywood. (Los Angeles Public Library)

A snowball fight on Valley streets in January 1949. (Los Angeles Public Library)

Skiing in La Crescenta. (Los Angeles Public Library)

Stalled out motorists in Coldwater Canyon. (Los Angeles Public Library)

Snow covers the Huntington Hotel in Pasadena. Their slogan was “Where sunshine spends the winter.” (Los Angeles Public Library)

People playing in a Los Angeles city park. (Los Angeles Public Library)


  1. Great photos.

    But not correct about snowfalls in LA since. There have been several local falls since then in metro LA. My favorite was the time a light covering of snow fell on the beach in Malibu. Would have been early 1988 I think. Enough to build a small snowman. I remember a very funny news report at the time on a local TV channel where the reporter was asking a bunch of tourists from Sweden what they thought about a snowman on a Malibu Beach - This is not what we were expected when we visited California - was the very bemused reply.

    All gone in an hour or two. I think the previous snowfall that close to the ocean was about 80 years before.




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