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Angeles Crest Highway reopened after closure due to high winds, falling rocks [Updated]

November 30, 2009 |  7:35 am

Early-morning commuters hoping to use Angeles Crest Highway today for the first time since it was closed over the summer were met with rock slides, a result of high winds that covered portions of the road with debris.

Baltazar Siqueiros, president of Baltazar Construction, which has been working on repairing roads that were damaged by the Station fire in August and September, said the highway was not safe this morning


“It’s bad,” he said. “We’re going to keep it closed for a couple hours.”

[Updated at 9:37 a.m.: The highway has since been reopened, but officials are urging drivers to use caution because crews are working to remove debris and the area remains windy.]

Siqueiros said a rock blade plow is working to clear the debris from an approximately 12-mile stretch of the highway. The National Weather Service said light to moderate winds with gusts up to 60 mph could be blowing through the region during the day.

Danny Macias, an equipment operator for Caltrans on his way to work in East L.A. from Palmdale, had not taken the road since August. After weaving around large boulders that had tumbled onto the road and watching rocks falling from the barren hillsides, Macias was shaking.

“I’m terrified,” he said. “I wouldn’t go up there. There’s rock slides everywhere.”

Portions of Angeles Crest Highway, Angeles Forest Highway, Big Tujunga Canyon Road and Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road were closed in September because of the Station fire, which burned more than 160,000 acres, the largest recorded wildfire in L.A. County history.

They were scheduled to be opened at 5 a.m. today after the L.A. County Department of Public Works repaired more than 40 miles of damaged roadways, including replacing road signs, guard rails, road markers, drainage culverts and road striping.

Several concrete barriers – known as k-rails – have been placed along portions of the road to catch debris falling from the barren hillsides.

“There’s material coming off the hillsides every day, and that’s not going to stop,” said Bob Spencer, a spokesman for the department. “What we’ve been waiting to do is complete the necessary repairs so we could open the roads to through traffic.”

Spencer said motorists should “take it easy and be cautious when they start using the roads again.”

He also said that if there is a forecast of rain, the chances are good that the roads will be shut down again.

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Baltazar Siqueiros explains to drivers there were rock slides overnight on Angeles Crest Highway and that the road needs to be cleaned off before it can be reopened. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

More Photos > > > >

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