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Old Man Winter Pummels SCV

Posted: January 25, 2008 1:37 a.m.
Updated: March 27, 2008 2:02 a.m.

A tow truck driver connects his chain to an overturned pickup truck. The truck had collided with a Honda CR-V and a semi truck at 11:33 a.m, then slid down an embankment off of northbound Interstate 5, near The Old Road.

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Snow shut down Interstate 5 on Thursday, stranding motorists but creating a boon for Castaic business owners, and rain sent some cars spinning out of control on Santa Clarita Valley streets.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service reported that nearly two inches of rain had fallen on the Newhall area since the storm began, and up to 12 inches of snow had been measured by weather spotters in Frazier Park.
The slick road conditions likely contributed to two collisions on the northbound side of I-5 that sent two people to the hospital in the late morning, and several smaller incidents on Highway 14 slowed things there as well.
According to Officer Patrick Kimball of the California Highway Patrol, three vehicles were involved in a crash on the northbound side of I-5 at The Old Road around 11:30 a.m. A white pickup truck ended up on its roof down an embankment, and two people ended up in local hospitals with minor injuries.
A short time later, at 12:30 p.m., a solo vehicle spinout in the same location created even more problems, backing traffic up to the Highway 14 interchange. No one was injured in the second collision.
Around Castaic, hundreds of motorists were forced into motels and restaurants as the snow levels dropped as low as 2,500 feet from the Pyramid Lake area through the Tejon Pass.
CHP officers closed the I-5 in both directions around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The freeway was still shut down late Thursday evening, with the closure expected to extend well into Friday afternoon.
Southbound cars were shuttled off the road at the Grapevine in Kern County, and northbound cars were stopped at Parker Road in Castaic.
The closure prompted some motorists to turn back and take Highway 14 and Highway 126 detours, while others decided to pull off the road and take a "wait-and-see" approach.
As the closure stretched from Wednesday evening into Wednesday night, the section of Castaic Road from Parker Road to Lake Hughes Road turned into a miniature city. Big rigs lined the curbs and motorists clogged the parking lots of local restaurants and hotels, waiting for word that the road would reopen.
By 2 p.m. Thursday, they were still waiting. Snow continued falling at Templin Highway, and the interstate remained shut down except for a single escorted convoy.
"We're not going to be out of here anytime soon," said Officer John Lutz of the CHP's Newhall-area office.
Andres Baeza and his wife, Noelia, who were en route from Guadalajara, Mexico, to their home in Truckee, sat patiently in their car in the parking lot of the McDonald's restaurant on Castaic Road.
"We've been waiting since five o'clock yesterday," Baeza said, cradling a tiny dog in his arms. He said that he and his wife had spent the night in a local motel, rather than take one of the detours.
Roberto Davila, a truck driver from Los Angeles, said that he opted to stay in Castaic rather than chance the Highway 14 to Highway 58 alternate route because he knew that it was also prone to closure in inclement weather.
"I thought they might shut the 58, because sometimes it snows there too," he said. "I also heard there were a lot of accidents on the 14."
Davila was right on both counts - Highway 14 was indeed a traffic nightmare Wednesday night, as dozens of collisions turned the road into a near parking lot. And, according to Officer Michelle Esposito of the CHP's Newhall area office, Highway 58 was closed at approximately 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night and was reopened at 2:30 a.m. Thursday.
Economically, the road closure was hard on truckers but good for Castaic. Davila said the near 24-hour stoppage had put a crimp in his normal route, which runs from Los Angeles to the bay area.
"I lost two loads already," he said, while idling in front of the Castaic Truck Stop.
However, at the Rodeway Inn and the Castaic Inn, business was booming. Both reported that they were full or nearly full Wednesday night.
"This happens every time the road closes," said Idalia Corona, front desk clerk at the Castaic Inn. "But it was kind of sad - a lot of people had to postpone things they were going to, and had to miss work."
Starbucks was doing a brisk business as daytime temperatures in the 40s sent people scurrying for warm lattes and hot chocolates.
"It's been pretty hectic here," said Gus Manzo, a barista at the store.
Late Thursday, there were few prospects for the I-5 to reopen. Periodic bursts of snow continued to plague the higher elevations Thursday, and the National Weather Service forecast continuous rainfall through today, including several more inches of snow and strong winds in the mountain areas.


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