San Diego, CA, Mar. 7 (AP by Michelle Ray Ortiz)--The Southwest was jolted by a fierce winter storm that coated the mountains of Southern California and Arizona with snow and was blamed for at least five deaths.
Three of the dead were illegal immigrants caught unprepared in the high country east of San Diego. Two other people died in Arizona.
Cloudy skies and warmer temperatures were forecast for today but another, weaker storm was expected to hit the Southwest on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
For a second straight day, snow and rain spread widely and heavily across Arizona on Monday, breaking up the driest winter on record.
A Phoenix hiker missing since Sunday morning, Jollie Rodman, 30, died during the night after she and her brother, Charles Adams, 29, became too cold to move in the Tonto National Forest. Adams was rescued Monday.
Near Casa Grande, about 30 miles south of Phoenix, a van overturned after hitting a guard rail Monday in heavy rain. One of its 15 occupants was killed, the Arizona state police said.
Snow pelted Flagstaff and continued through the night, with 15 inches in the city and at least 21 inches on the San Francisco Peaks.
Schools in the area were closed, and the snow recorded at Pulliam Airport set a record for the day, breaking the old record of 4.4 inches set in 1980, the National Weather Service said.
On Sunday, the storm that swept down from the Gulf of Alaska dropped up to 8 inches of snow in the mountains east of San Diego, where the immigrants were crossing the border in light clothing. Survivors said they were told to take the treacherous route by smugglers.
Farther north, the Grapevine section of Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley was temporarily closed Monday morning, said California Highway Patrol Officer Shirley Gaines. The interstate is a major route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The cold air mass behind the storm set records for the date. The mountain resort of Idyllwild, Calif., had a high of 39, one degree below the record for March 6 set in 1973. Palomar Mountain had a high of just 33, a degree below the 1976 mark.
In the Sierra, a skier lost for two days was found safe Monday outside the Sugar Bowl ski area. Sara Norvill, 37, said she spent two nights in a snow cave.
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