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Snow shuts key routes into and out of L.A.; more rain, snow on the way [Updated]

January 3, 2011 |  5:12 am

Getting into or out of Southern California continued to be a struggle Monday morning as snow and freezing temperatures blocked numerous roads, including Interstate 5, the state's vital north-south corridor.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of motorists were stranded along Interstate 5 and other mountain and pass roads closed by snow. People trying to get back into the region from holiday weekends to the north reported delays that lasted 12 hours or more.

Another key route, Interstate 15, was temporarily closed overnight at the Cajon Pass because of snow. But the California Highway Patrol reopened the route from L.A. to Las Vegas, which was being used as an alternative route for Interstate 5.

[Updated, 5:20 a.m.: It's unclear when Interstate 5 would reopen, but the CHP said drivers should use the 101 Freeway instead. And although I-15 was reopened, there were reportedly backups of 20 to 30 miles getting into Southern California. Traffic also has been slowgoing on California 14 and U.S. 395.]

The National Weather Service predicted another day of snow that could drop as low as 1,500 feet, affecting not only mountain passes, but also the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.

The snow conditions will have a "serious impact on all travel into or through the mountains overnight and Monday," it said.

The L.A. Basin could see scattered showers through Monday afternoon.

A cold front that originated in the Pacific Northwest brought chilly rains, heavy snow and wind gusts of up to 90 mph.

The CHP on Sunday sent tow trucks to help dislodge stuck vehicles and escorted others through the pass, 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.

The weather service on Sunday issued a winter-storm warning through late Monday for area mountains as well as the Antelope Valley, with accumulations of 4 to 8 inches predicted. There were reports of snow flurries at an elevation of 800 feet along California 126, near the Ventura County community of Piru.

Rain was expected to last through Monday in the Los Angeles Basin, with 0.75 to 1.5 inches forecast.

-- Carla Rivera and Margot Roosevelt

Photo: Jedi checks out the situation as cars are stranded on California 138 just outside Gorman after an accident closed the road. Jedi's owners were heading home to Frazier Park from camping when they were stranded. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / Jan. 2, 2011

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