Yes, if Jack Webb's famous police officer, Detective Sergeant Joe Friday, had been working out of homicide or juvenile or bunco (or wherever the LAPD had him assigned at the time) back in 1932, that's how he would have opened that week's radio broadcast of "Dragnet." For on that day, it actually was snowing in the City of the Angels.
The image you see above is not trick photography, but proof of an honest-to-goodness snowfall in front of Powell Library on UCLA's campus. In downtown L.A. that day, two inches of snow were recorded, and about an inch or so was measured on the beaches.
Since the entry planned here for Jan. 15 will focus on something far more serious, we thought we'd commemorate this freakish weather display a few days ahead of schedule.
Here's another photo of the white stuff, this along a Glendale street:
Unfortunately, pictures and accounts of that day are few and far between on the Internet, although here's a full-page pictorial on the snowfall that ran the following day in the Los Angeles Times (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/files/1932_0116_snow.JPG). It would be fun to find out how people at the various film studios in Hollywood and environs reacted to it; perhaps that could be a subject for future research. For Carole Lombard, it probably reminded her of childhood days in Fort Wayne, Ind. (Over at UCLA, there were reports of snowball fights and a few windows broken.)
To be fair, snow isn't completely foreign to Angelenos -- but normally, they go to it, rather than it coming to them. The phrase "snow in the higher elevations" isn't uncommon on L.A. weather reports, and in January and February, wintry weather is a few hours away at Big Bear Lake and other mountain resorts.
What made the snows of '32 seem all the more bizarre was that at about the same time, much of the east coast was experiencing an incredibly warm, mild winter. From Jan. 13-15 in Washington, D.C., the high temperatures were 75, 76 and 77 degrees -- the last of which was D.C.'s highest January temperature since 1872. The world must have seemed topsy-turvy. (Heck, the east just had another warm spell; a few days ago, it actually reached 70 degrees in Syracuse, N.Y., in January.)
The 1932 snowfall was the heaviest snowfall of note in downtown Los Angeles, but at least two other appreciable snowfalls have been recorded -- on Jan. 12, 1882, and on Jan. 9, 1949. In that latter snowfall, only three-tenths of an inch fell downtown, but poor Glendale was socked with a whopping three inches.
And about a year ago, on Jan. 17, 2007, o dusting of snow hit West Los Angeles. Take a look at these images: