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Interstate 5 reopened [UPDATED]

February 16, 2009 | 10:49 am

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A powerful storm system dumped rain and snow across Southern California today, closing two main interstates and flooding roads and freeways.

The snow level dropped to 3,500 feet, closing both Interstate 5 at the Grapevine and Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass. [Update at 12:01 p.m.: The Cajon Pass has reopened for now.]

The CHP and local authorities reported dozens of accidents on freeways and surface streets that jammed traffic despite the Presidents Day holiday. A accident jammed lanes of the 405 Freeway at Getty Center Drive, the 710 Freeway at Del Amo Boulevard and the 210 Freeway at Santa Anita Boulevard.

The National Weather Service was also warning about morning surf of up to 7 feet, with some swells as large as 9 feet. Officials said a heavy cell of rain moved through the basin this morning, with another somewhat weaker cell expected in the mid-morning and early afternoon.

Updated 9:15 p.m.: Interstate 5 was reopened this evening, but a California Highway Patrol official said it could be closed again by bad weather.

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Motorists are advised to stay away from the 15 Freeway near the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County. The northbound lanes of the freeway are closed from Highway 138 to Main Street in Hesperia because of snow, according to Caltrans officials. Southbound traffic from the 395 Freeway to Highway 138 is reduced to two lanes.

The storms have caused problems across the Southland. The Los Angeles city Fire Department reported receiving a call this morning of a missing hiker in a Santa Monica Mountains canyon area near the 3600 block of Van Alden Avenue and Golden Eagle Drive. The caller reported the hiker had possibly been trapped in the area overnight, said d'Lisa Davies, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. She said rescue crews are hiking in to the area this morning but won't be able to airlift him out because of the treacherous storm conditions. [Updated at 12:01: The hiker was found and taken to a local hospital.]

In Laurel Canyon, an intersection is expected to be closed all day after trees fell this morning and took out three electrical poles, authorities said. The fork in the road at Wonderland and Lookout Mountain avenues were obstructed about 6:40 a.m. when at least one tree crashed to the ground in front of Wonderland Elementary School and ripped through electrical wires.

“It’s a pretty significant outage in the area, because it took down three poles,” Davies said. “The trees are pretty huge, they’re like eight feet in diameter.” No injuries were reported, but one home was evacuated because trees were leaning toward it.

A flash flood watch is in effect for Los Angeles and Ventura counties, according to the National Weather Service, and residents along the coast and in the valleys can expect up to 3 inches of rain, the heaviest of which may fall this afternoon.

“There is a good chance for thunderstorms today and tomorrow,” said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service. “These thunderstorms could have very gusty winds, small hail and heavy downpours of rain.” Showers will continue through Tuesday and partly cloudy skies are expected by Wednesday.

-- Corina Knoll and Hector Becerra

Photo: Interstate 5 was closed in both directions in Castaic.

Credit: Anne  Cusack / Los Angeles Times

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