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Freeway closure strands hundreds of travelers

Posted: January 11, 2013 5:06 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2013 5:06 p.m.

Marlen Angel of Pomona eats breakfast in the parking lot of Carl's Jr. in Castaic, waiting with fellow motorists for the freeway to reopen Friday morning. Signal photo by Jonathan Pobre

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Robert Angel and his daughter, Marlen, ate breakfast in the parking lot of the Carl’s Jr. restaurant off Parker Road in Castaic Friday morning.

It was the same parking lot they had been in since 7 p.m. the night before.

The Angels’ trip to Bakersfield was interrupted after snow and ice closed Interstate 5 through the Grapevine late Thursday afternoon.

“Last night they said the road would be open in three hours, and then they said five hours,” Robert Angel said, looking around at dozens of other would-be travelers at the fast-food restaurant. “We’re still here.”

I-5 northbound was closed from 4 p.m. Thursday until around 9:30 a.m. Friday, leaving many twisting in the wind on the side of the freeway. Southbound lanes opened shortly before that.

Hundreds of motorists were stranded on both sides of the Tejon Pass overnight. Some 300 to 500 vehicles had assembled overnight at Grapevine Road on the San Joaquin Valley side of the Tejon Pass. Northbound motorists were halted at Parker Road in Castaic.

Some slept in their cars parked on jammed freeway lanes with no way to maneuver out of the area.

While some motorists were able to turn back and use alternate routes, but many big-rig drivers simply had to wait the closure out.

Truck driver Elias Ambriz sipped a cup of coffee as he stood in a dirt lot packed with a dozen other big rigs. Ambriz had been stalled in Castaic since 11 p.m. Thursday. Driving an alternate route was not an option, he said.

Ambriz said it was the second year in a row he has had to deal with an I-5 closure, which meant he knew just how to pass the time.

“While you’re waiting, you might as well get some sleep,” Ambriz said, laughing.

The freeway closure also kept some people from returning home from vacation. Charles Lim was on a tour bus with 29 others trying to return to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Lim laughed at the idea of a trip to Canada being delayed by icy roads in Southern California.

“That’s just the way it works sometimes,” Lim said.

Thursday night-Friday morning lows in the Santa Clarita Valley were recorded at 32 degrees in the Newhall Pass and 34 in Saugus. At 4,160 feet high, Tejon Pass’s lower temperatures and precipitation kept the road impassable.

A freeze watch was in effect throughout the Santa Clarita Valley through Monday morning, with lows expected in the high 20s Saturday and Sunday nights, the National Weather Service forecast.

Highs will be in the low 50s with breezy conditions, and temperatures aren’t expected to climb until mid-week.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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