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Motorists diverted off 5 Freeway seek shelter until morning

March 20, 2011 | 11:19 pm

Drivers trying to make their way Sunday night on the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine were turned back or told to take alternative routes after heavy snow made the area impassable.

California Highway Patrol officials announced the closure of the key north/south connector about 7 p.m. The freeway was closed from Parker Road, about three miles north of California 126, all the way to the Kern County line.

In addition, a high-wind advisory was in effect for the 5 Freeway throughout Fresno County, with motorists with campers and large trucks with trailers told that "travel is not recommended."

Many on the road attempted the alternate route around the Grapevine, driving east along California 58 to the 14, only to give up when they ran into snow near Tehachapi. By late Sunday, CHP officials had also closed California 58 from six miles east of California 184 to the 14.

At the Fairfield Inn in Tehachapi, Sean and Katie Kaiser waited in line with a dozen others unexpectedly seeking a room for the night. The couple left Fresno earlier in the day, en route to their home in Carlsbad.

"We've made it on the alternate route before," he said.

Sean Kaiser, who serves in the Marines, had been bullish on making it home until the harsh weather forced him to reconsider.

Despite the setback, his outlook remained bright. Informed of the power outages, falling debris and road closings swamping the area, Kaiser said he felt better about being stuck in the high-altitude town of Techachapi.

"We might be in a good place," he said with a smile. "For when the floods come."


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-- Ben Welsh in Tehachapi