Frigid temperatures grip the Southland


The Grapevine section of Interstate 5 has reopened to traffic after dangerous driving conditions brought on by snow and ice shut down the busy artery.

According to the California Highway Patrol, both directions were shut around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. The southbound lanes were closed starting at Castaic while the northbound lanes were shut through the Grapevine. The Grapevine section of the I-5 was closed for approximately three hours before CHP reopened it once conditions improved.

Highway 138 was also closed temporarily due to black ice. Some vehicles slid off the road and had to be towed out.

Truck driver Mike Castillon decided to park his big rig to avoid trouble.

"My back trailer was sliding off to the side, so I wasn't getting any traction," Castillon said. "I didn't want to cause an accident. I tried to look for a wide spot where I could pull over and wait it out."

Snowfall, ice and freezing temperatures made driving conditions treacherous through the Cajon Pass. The CHP ran escorts up and down the Cajon Pass and things were back to normal along Interstate 15 early Wednesday. The road had to be shut down around 1 a.m. so that crews could clear the snow-covered road. They plowed and it was reopened about 15 minutes later despite sporadic snow.

"At approximately 1 a.m., the snow flurries just piled up and we worked with Caltrans," said Andre Primeaux of the CHP. "We actually had to shut down the freeway just north of the 138 and south of Oak Hills temporarily just to give Caltrans the opportunity to get through, to plow through and move safely."

In conjunction with CHP, Caltrans began trying to move the cars and trucks off the I-15 in order to begin plowing and salting out the icy patches on the road.

CHP said that's when three separate chain reaction crashes were reported. Traffic was at a standstill when drivers slammed on their brakes and slid.

Motorist Alex Mendez wasn't hurt, but his minivan is going to need some body work.

"I was barely able to control the car and slow down to a safe stop and I look in my rear view mirror and see a car sideways just coming right at me," Mendez said.

At 3,000 feet, the area of Interstate 5 near the border of Apple Valley and Victorville was pounded by snow. The area was slick near Stoddard Mountain Road.

Low snow levels also forced the closure of a 35-mile stretch of Highway 58 between Mojave and Bakersfield around 8 p.m. Tuesday. Hundreds of cars had to be escorted off the highway near Tehachapi, while about a dozen others were actually trapped in the snow. Plows were dispatched to free the trapped motorists.

At Mountain High Resort, eight to 10 inches of new snow was added to the slopes. The storm also added 12 to 14 inches of snow to Snow Summit.

Due to the amount of snow that fell overnight, all schools in the Rim of the World Unified School District and Bear Valley Unified School District in San Bernardino County were scheduled to be closed Wednesday. Students in the Adelanto School District in the High Desert were also given a snow day.

Chains are required on all routes to the San Bernardino mountains. Caltrans set up a checkpoint early Wednesday morning on Highway 2 heading into Wrightwood. CHP said vehicles without chains would be turned away, except for four-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels.

The storm from the Gulf of Alaska brought the first significant rainfall to the region in several weeks, the National Weather Service said. Strong winds also added to dangerous driving conditions across the Southland, especially for big rig drivers. Accidents marked where the pavement gave way to ice.

Drivers were urged to drive slowly and use caution as the roads will become icy and the snow melts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.