"Unfortunately, there's no reason to think that this is going to be over in a couple of days," Mayor Karen Bass said.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As a stretch of the 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles remained closed in the aftermath of a fire that erupted under the interstate, officials announced detours and transit alternatives while commuters braced for a Monday morning traffic nightmare in the area.
Hazardous materials teams were clearing burned material from underneath the freeway to make way for engineers who will ensure the columns and deck of the structure can support the 300,000 vehicles that typically travel that route daily, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Sunday.
"Remember, this is an investigation as to the cause of how this occurred, as well as a hazmat and structural engineering question," Newsom said. "Can you open a few lanes? Can you retrofit the columns? Is the bridge deck intact to allow for a few lanes to remain open again?"
Newsom said answering those questions would be a "24-7 operation," but officials couldn't yet offer a timeline for when the highway might reopen.
L.A. transportation officials urged drivers to transfer to other freeways -- like the 60, 5 and 101 -- instead of getting off the freeway to get around the closure using surface streets.
Doug Young, an assistant chief with the CHP, provided the following freeway detours:
-- drivers on eastbound 10 Freeway will be diverted at Alameda Street;
-- drivers on the westbound 60 will be diverted to northbound 5 or northbound 101;
-- drivers on southbound 5 will be diverted onto the westbound 10 but must take the first exit at Mateo Street;
-- drivers on northbound 5 must divert to the northbound 101.
Anyone planning to attend major sporting events in or around downtown L.A. may want to seek an alternate route or plan for major delays, according to Caltrans.
Metrolink said it will expand service beginning Monday on its San Bernardino Line to support travelers impacted by the freeway closure. The agency will increase capacity and run added service on the line to and from the Inland Empire and downtown L.A. Six extra trains will run in each direction: three in the morning and three in the afternoon and evening.
"All schools and offices will remain open," L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said at a news conference. "For families whose students use school bus transportation, the schedule of your route could be impacted by the closure of the 10 Freeway, but service will continue to be provided. Specific information will be provided directly to families by our Transportation Services Division this afternoon and tomorrow morning. Families who have questions about district transportation are encouraged to contact 1- 800-LA-BUSES (522-8737)."
Carvalho also said that several schools will be impacted from the closure, and he cited students coming from Boyle Heights as significantly affected.
More than 24 hours after it started, Caltrans officials said they were still assessing the damage, and could not say when the freeway would reopen. Meanwhile, there were concerns the ongoing closure could wreak even more havoc on Monday morning's commute.
"We're seeing a lot of... concrete that's flaked off the columns. The underside of the bridge deck may be compromised," said Caltrans spokesperson Lauren Wonder. "It's sort of a waiting situation right now. We don't have an estimated time of opening but Caltrans wants to ensure that this bridge is safe to put traffic back on it."
Wonder said if the damage is mostly cosmetic, traffic could potentially resume on the bridge.
"If it's rebar, then we cannot put traffic load on there, and it may take a week... a month. It may take less time," she said.
During a press conference Sunday afternoon, Mayor Karen Bass and other city officials echoed the same message.
"Unfortunately, there's no reason to think that this is going to be over in a couple of days. We cannot give you an estimate of time right now," she said.
Mayor Karen Bass, Gov. Newsom provide update on 10 Freeway closure
"What appears on the outside to be problematic may not be the real problem. It's what lies underneath and that's the bridge deck," said Newson. "That's the primary focus now of our investigation."
Bass took a tour of the damage Saturday as Newsom proclaimed a State of Emergency in Los Angeles County to help facilitate cleanup and repairs.
Newsom said the state has been in litigation with the owner of the business leasing the storage property where the fire started. The lease is expired, Newsom said, and the business had been in arrears while subleasing the space. "This is a site we were aware of, this is a lessee we were aware of," he said.
Bass said she "directed all city departments to immediately plan for how to address increased traffic due to this closure to best mitigate the impact on Angelenos and we will continue to urgently coordinate with our state partners to resolve this issue for not only the millions who use this freeway, but also for those who live and work in the surrounding areas."
She said she has spoken with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who says the White House is ready assist.
"For those of you who remember the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Caltrans worked around the clock complete emergency repairs to the freeways - an this structural damage calls for the same level of urgency and effort," Bass said Sunday.
The cause of the fire was under investigation Sunday. Flames reported around 12:20 a.m. Saturday ripped through two storage lots in an industrial area beneath the highway, burning parked cars, stacks of wooden pallets and support poles for high-tension power lines, fire Chief Kristin Crowley said. No injuries were reported.
More than 160 firefighters from more than two dozen companies responded to the blaze, which spread across 8 acres - the equivalent of about six football fields - and burned for three hours. The highway's columns are charred and chipped, and guardrails along the deck are twisted and blackened.
At least 16 homeless people living underneath the highway were evacuated and brought to shelters, Bass said. Officials said there was no immediate indication that the blaze began at the encampment.
The mayor said the fire's long-term impact could be reminiscent of damage from the Northridge earthquake that flattened freeways in 1994.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.