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Motorists stranded as rain, snow jam Southern California freeways

Rain and snow made for a rough first morning commute of 2011 as Interstate 5 remained closed and other routes were jammed for miles.

Some motorists reported driving for 12 hours or more to get back to Los Angeles from points north over the last 24 hours as snow levels dropped to below 2,000 feet, closing mountain pass routes such as the Grapevine.

As of 8 a.m., Interstate 15 was open, but the California Highway Patrol was running escort over the Cajon Pass southbound. Motorists reported backups of 20 to 30 miles.

Portions of Highway 58 were closed, and a major accident on Highway 138 near Palmdale was further jamming traffic.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of motorists were stranded along I-5 and other mountain and pass roads closed by snow.

The CHP said the best route to Los Angeles from the north is the 101 Freeway.

Scattered showers will continue to fall on the Los Angeles area until early Monday afternoon but should clear up and make way for “cool and dry conditions through the weekend,” said Bonnie Bartling, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service.

A low-pressure system brought cold air from the Gulf of Alaska and the most recent bout of drizzle, Bartling said.

“The rain is winding down though,” she said. “But we will still have snow in the mountains and the low valleys.”

The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook Monday for area mountains and valleys.

“Travel through the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, as well as the Antelope and the Santa Clarita valleys, will be very hazardous [Monday] due to moderate snowfall,” the outlook warned.

The CHP on Sunday sent tow trucks to help dislodge vehicles and escorted others through the Grapevine, Officer Krystal Carter said. But travelers heading north and south faced daunting delays, including a detour that took them to California 126, U.S. 101, California 166 and then back to I-5.

Matt Morrow, returning to Southern California on Sunday with his family after a ski trip to Lake Tahoe, described blizzard-like conditions and an element of chaos on the 5 as stranded motorists sought shelter and gas.

"The entire freeway came to a screeching halt," said Morrow, 47, an Internet marketer from Foothill Ranch in Orange County. "It was snowing like crazy right down there on the freeway."

Morrow, who was traveling with his wife, daughter and son, said it took nearly an hour for the traffic to move about 100 yards. Other motorists were driving onto the median to get around traffic.

"There were mild cases of road rage," he said.

Officials also issued a wind advisory for the 118 Freeway, saying campers, trailers and other high-profile vehicles should avoid the route.


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Comments () | Archives (25)

LA residents commute is about to get a lot rougher: An 8.8 subduction quake on the San Andreas that will surprise the USGS morons.

It's took us 12 hours to get to LA from Vegas on the I-15. Left early afternoon and got home at 3AM!


I drove home on NY day from Laughlin, NV. Glad I did. Rosebowl this year was a non event so I didn't mind not seeing the game. Those who waited until Jan 2 got screwed by the snow.

NY day in a gambling casino away from your family? Get a life, folks.

We drove from San Diego to Modesto yesterday, and what is normally a 7 hour drive took us 13 hours. We were warned of the closure so we took the 101 detour, but it was slow driving from Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara.

Why? A little snow and they close it? OMG! Just plow it, through some salt/sand on it, and a way you go! If the rest of the nation did this the whole country would come to a halt. California needs to get with it!

We left San Mateo at 1:30PM, proceeded on to the 101 S to the 152 to the 5 S only to find out that the grapevine was closed, so we doubled back from 11 miles south of the 152, went to the 156 to the 101 S and almost 12 hours later and seeing 5 accidents on the road, we were finally home in Tustin...


It seems like SoCal-ers are pretty soft. You don't have to go into panic mode with simple weather shifts like this.

11 hours to get from palm springs to san francisco via 101. It was horrible.

I came into the BA from the east on 58. At the sight of the first snowflake people slammed on their brakes and blocked the #1 lane. Slower traffic keep right!!!! This means YOU!!!

It took 11.5 hours to get from Long Beach to SF with a stop in Modesto to drop off friends... Took the 14 to the 58 to the 99. Next time I'll suffer through airport security and Fly!

4 wheel drive, anyone?

Salt and Plows!!! Dam it!- No reason for the ridiculous delay~ States like Michigan and Maine could teach our state a little something** I got home at 3am; a six hour drive from Bakersfield to L.A (normally 2hrs). My heart goes out to the dozens of cars I saw stranded at high altitudes due to running out of gas in traffic :(
- Just shows how under-prepared our Cal-Trans and CHP agencies are!!

We left San Jose at 3pm and arrived in LA at 3AM. Wished I was smarter and took the 101!

its funny how people from other states are saying just plow and salt it. have you driven over the grapevine? its a 1000 foot gain and drop in elevation in a very short time. ive been there during snow and ice events and its not safe. cars and trucks slide down the steep grade.

Oh calm down people. Considering how many snow plows and salt it would take to clear all these passes for what, an event that maybe happens once a year, why on earth would be need to imitate or learn anything from Michigan or Maine on this one? The mid-west has to clear roads 6 months out of the year, and we need it for one night. That's not a smart investment for Southern California.

And Albus, you're right, Angelenos are soft and I wouldn't have it any other way. Because being soft comes from having nearly perfect weather for most of the year, a "simple weather shift" you'd probably enjoy in your icy state.

To those complaining about how CA should get with it like other states who have snow all the time. The reason why the freeway closes has one name: GRAPEVINE! Forgive them from trying to keep you senseless drivers safe!

I think what the news media is not telling you is that the real reason why california couldn't just Plow the roads is because the state is broke. They must have NOT had the money to pay for snow plowers. Everybody start getting used to living in a 3rd world country or at least start living like it's 1950 again, not 2011. This is very dangerous and I could imagen that many babies and old people were freezen and getting sick by staying out in the cold all night. New York was having the same kind of problems and I'm guessing it money related as well.

Where is this global warming when you need it?

Doesn't anybody check the weather forecasts before they hit the road? They've been pretty damn accurate, especially with the I5 snow warnings.

Our drive home from Sacramento to the OC took over 15 hours. Luckily we left at 7am or we would have never made it. After just missing getting over the Grapevine, we headed north to the 58 and crossed there. Half of that drive was under 5mph with snow just starting to come down. By the time we hit the 14 we were in the middle of a full blown snow storm. I was averaging less than 1 mph for a couple of hours as the snow was blowing so hard I could barely see the tail lights in front of me. There were no longer lanes on the freeway, just tire tracks that you followed (or risked sliding into the snow). Cars were scattered along the freeway turned sideways. Any car daring enough to pull off to the side to put chains on or relieve their bladders had trouble getting back into the traffic. We finally made it home at about 10:30pm and today I feel like I have a hang over. But I'm home.

I agree with the comments about motorists not checking the weather forecast before departing. This was not a surprise storm. They were warning as early as Friday on all the weather sites that the snow level would be very low with this storm and that the high desert would get snow.

Our drive back from Lake Tahoe took us 13 hours, I left at noon and I knew the Grapevine was closed, so I decided to drive as much as possible on the 5 south and then use the 41 (Paso Robles) to connect to the 101 South. Once I got the the intersection of the 41 and the 33 the traffic was totally stopped. So we turned around to the 5 south and then I took the 46 (horrible highway to drive in the rain if you are not familiar with it), then I took the 99 South to the 58 East, all was great up to the point that we started noticing snow falling, then the traffic just got horrible, we were moving really slow from that point up to almost the intersection of the 14 and the 5. There was snow everywhere, lots of it and the road was really icy in certain areas. I saw a lot of wrecks, people that ran out of gas and people that just wanted to take pictures. We got home safe and that's what it matters. My wife told me already that the next time we go out that far, we should better fly.

I haven't seen any comments from people who chosed to re-route to the 101 south from the 5 south and I was wondering what alternative route they took and how their experience was with the weather condition. Did anybody take the 41, 58, 166 or 33 to the 101 south?

That's a good video indeed.


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