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Hundreds stranded in Castaic as storm closes I-5

January 3, 2011 | 11:12 am

View Grapevine closure in a larger map

Hundreds of stranded cars and trucks were parked alongside Interstate 5 in Castaic on Monday, waiting for the north-south freeway to reopen after being closed by snow and freezing temperatures.

Many drivers heading north said they were willing to wait rather than try slower options, such as the 101 Freeway.

"I could have taken the 101," said John Finnell, a physician on his way to Santa Rosa. "But it's one of those things: Do I want to take a chance on the roads, or do I want to drive for 10 hours?"

Interstate 5 in Castaic was dry Monday morning, but the hills just north were still covered in snow.

Many other cars got off the freeway and parked at restaurants and gas stations. The parking lots of Carl's Jr. and a Shell gas station were filled to capacity.

Finnell said he parked his Volvo station wagon along the freeway about 9:30 a.m. Monday. Others had been waiting much longer.

Juan Estrada had been stopped on the roadside with his family since 7 a.m. after spending the holidays with his brother in Pasadena. They were trying to make it back to Watsonville.

Estrada, who works at a surf board manufacturer, said he had already called his boss to say he would not be there Monday.

"It's going to be a long day," he said, standing outside his car in a ski cap and down jacket. He was chatting with Raymond Lora, who was on his way to visit his daughter in Tacoma, Wash.

Lora said he had made it to Southern California from Florida in just three days and was also determined to wait until Interstate 5 reopened.

"If I turn around, I'll just get lost," he said. "And I still have a long way to go."

All 51 rooms at the Castaic Inn just off the freeway have been filled since 5 p.m. Sunday, said Nancy Acosta, a receptionist at the hotel.

Michael and Jennifer Prince said they decided to stop at the hotel Sunday on their way home from San Diego because they did not want to risk driving on the icy roads at night with their 4-year-old son, Jack.

They were trying to get back to Bakersfield, where they manage a theater, but have rented a room for Monday night.

"We booked another night just to be safe," Michael Prince said.

Alice Ramirez, of Hayward, said she had never seen as much snow as she saw falling Sunday afternoon when she first checked into the inn.

"That was the first time I saw snow like that," she said. "It was so exciting."

Ramirez said she was lucky to book one of the last available rooms at the roadside inn, but was unsure if she would stay for a second night.

Like many of the guests, she was waiting to see if the freeway would be reopened.


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-- Sam Allen in Castaic