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Drivers sidelined in Castaic as snow and ice close Interstate 5 at the Grapevine [Updated]

December 8, 2009 |  9:23 am

Hundreds of truck drivers and commuters were sidelined in Castaic overnight after freezing temperatures forced officials to close Interstate 5 at the Grapevine. Officials expect the freeway to be reopened at 10 a.m.

[Updated at 11:19 a.m.:  CHP officers began escorting drivers through the Grapevine about 9 a.m., but the freeway remained closed to regular traffic.]

[Updated at 12:02 p.m.: The freeway was reopened at 11:30 a.m. to all traffic.]

Many drivers spent a cold night sleeping inside their vehicles, and there was more at stake for truck drivers worried about the financial strain the delay would cause. The closure left Miguel Galicia, an Oregon-based truck driver headed to Washington, with a truck load of milk.

“I’m disappointed. I’m carrying a lot of milk. I don’t know what’s going on,” said Galicia, 53. "We will have a problem with the customers because they need the product on time.”

Galicia arrived in Castaic at 6 p.m. Monday and is supposed to be at his destination by Wednesday.

Some drivers squeezed into turn lanes and along the sides of the freeway near Newhall Ranch Road, where scores of vehicles were packed along the street. Oswaldo de Coronado, 36, left San Bernardino at 5 p.m. Monday on his way to Modesto, but he also was stranded in Castaic.

De Coronado said he had heard the Grapevine was reopened, so he was surprised when he was ushered off the freeway in Castaic. He was delivering food-service packages and was worried about losing pay he needs to provide for his three young children. He could be docked two days of work because he was expected in Modesto at 6 a.m. today.

“You just don’t take detours,” De Coronado said. “It’s going to cost you.”

At the Castaic Inn, night manager Edward Caraballo said almost all of the 52 rooms were booked as of Monday night. A majority of customers checked in between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. and included regular commuters, families and a handful of people in the construction business.

Caraballo said the atmosphere was calm and that people were relaxed and taking the situation in stride. Storms are “very good for business,” he said.

CHP officials said they expect to open the highway at about 10 a.m. today. “[We’re] not for sure,” said CHP Officer Jennifer Connolly. “We’re crossing our fingers.”

Forecasters predict dry but cold and windy conditions today, with a second storm due Thursday.

The chilly temperatures will stay awhile, said Jamie Stern, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

"It’s going to be cold tonight; we don’t have any cloud cover that would normally insulate the heat,” Stern said. “Because we’re going to have clear skies today, it’s not going to hold in any of the heat that we’re going to receive today.”

Stern said a frost advisory for the Central Coast and the valleys in Ventura and Los Angeles counties expired at 8 a.m., but a freeze watch is in effect through Wednesday morning.

With frigid temperatures impacting truck drivers' pocketbooks and halting traffic for hours, Michelle Young, a 25-year-old from Miami on vacation with three friends, said she would not let the delay ruin their road trip from L.A. to Sacramento.

“We slept in the car, all three people. With all of our luggage,” Young said. “It just makes it that much more adventurous for us.”

-- Ann M. Simmons in Castaic and Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Two motorist brave icy conditions on South bound Interstate 5 near Gorman. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

More Photos > > >

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