High winds delay opening of Coachella festival camping

INDIO, Calif. (AP) — Gusty winds swept the mountains and deserts of Southern California on Thursday, forcing managers of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival to close campgrounds where thousands of fans were heading for the annual event’s second weekend.

“The National Weather Service has issued a severe high wind warning beginning Thursday morning lasting through early morning Friday,” the festival tweeted. “Opening of camping is delayed.”

The campgrounds were rescheduled to open at 3 a.m. Friday, an hour after the weather service warning was set to expire. The festival noted that the timing was still dependent on safety conditions. Campgrounds normally open a day ahead of the festival, which runs Friday through Sunday for two consecutive weekends each spring.

Festivalgoers diverted to store parking lots in Indio, the Riverside County desert community 130 miles (209 kilometers) east of Los Angeles that hosts the festival. Some set up chairs and tables and tried to make the best of the delay.

A late-morning gust in Riverside County hit 61 mph, the weather service said.

Kathleen Lewis of Reno, Nevada, said winds can be a menace to festival campers.

“It’s actually a nightmare when it’s windy,” she told KABC-TV . “I want to say, two years ago, we went back to the campsite because I had a migraine and the wind picked up. It picked up all of our canopies and luckily a couple of us were there to strap those canopies down. Once you get ‘em down low to the ground it’s not so bad.”

The California Department of Transportation warned travelers to expect a high volume of traffic Friday due to the arrival of delayed campers.

Meteorologists said a trough of low pressure brought the blustery weather to Southern California and an associated cold front pushed rain showers across the regions while dusting mountains with snow.

Wind advisories also were issued northward through the mountains of Kern County and along the eastern Sierra Nevada as far north as the U.S. 395 town of Bishop. Snow fell intermittently at the nearby Mammoth Mountain ski resort.

After the winds depart overnight, a ridge of high pressure will bring warming through the weekend.