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Little room at Palmdale inn after storm waylays motorists

January 3, 2011 | 12:39 pm

The general manager of Hilton Garden Inn in Palmdale had planned on a 10% to 15% occupancy rate but ended up renting 70% of the 107 rooms after a strong snowstorm left motorists stranded up and down the state.

"Everybody thought it would be a little sprinkle, but it went through the whole night," said General Manager Miriam Arreola, 38, referring to the Sunday night storm.

Guests checking in said they were unaccustomed to driving in snow and had been frightened while driving on Highway 14, where the slushy road caused wheels to spin. The main roadways were plowed early Monday, but other streets were difficult to navigate.

"If you don't know your street, you can't tell where you're going," Arreola said. "You can get lost in the whiteness of the snow."

Kirk and Linda Urata were stranded in the Antelope Valley with their 12-year-old daughter after dropping off an older daughter at UC San Diego and heading back home to Bakersfield.

Stopping for coffee and a bathroom break at a Denny's in Mojave, they decided to continue on, despite it being 1:30 a.m. But bumper-to-bumper traffic and snowy roads forced them to get off Highway 14 and backtrack to a Palmdale hotel.

Kirk Urata, a high-school teacher, e-mailed his lesson plan at 4 a.m. for the substitute teacher. He and his wife were frustrated by the lack of information from the California Department of Transportation, whose toll free number continuously advised them there were no travel restrictions.

"When you're going 10 mph and it's snowing, we consider that a restriction," Linda Urata said.

Signs posted along the highway instructed travelers to tune in to AM radio station 530 for road conditions, but the channel did not seem to be working. Still, the Uratas were in good spirits as they headed for the highway Monday morning.

"It's been friendly," Linda Urata said of their encounters with other travelers. "Everybody's been chatting and telling their stories. We just keep saying it's an adventure."

And their 12-year-old daughter, Claire, was happy to miss her first day back to school after winter vacation.


Clear skies ahead for Southern California

Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor hospitalized in Westwood

Escorts begin on Interstate 5; snow level could drop to 1,000 feet

-- Corina Knoll in Palmdale