CHP escorts traffic on 5 Freeway through the Grapevine as blizzard warning takes effect

Friday, February 24, 2023
5 Freeway through the Grapevine reopens
The 5 Freeway through the Grapevine reopened after it was shut down by the powerful storm in Southern California.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The California Highway Patrol closed the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine early Friday morning due to heavy snow and dangerous driving conditions, as a storm that is expected to pummel Southern California continued to intensify.

CHP crews from the Fort Tejon and Newhall areas conducted escorts through the area as the roads remained too slick for drivers. The 5 Freeway in the area slowly reopened at around 5:30 p.m.

The California Highway Patrol has reopened I-5 through the Grapevine with traffic escorts.

"It's pretty treacherous conditions up north. There's a lot of snow and a lot of ice, and the visibility is pretty low up there," said CHP Ofc. Joshua Greengard. "We have heavy rain in the Castaic area and it's just a little bit difficult for motorists to try to get through there right now."

Truckers like Merle Bentley, whose routes included the 5 Freeway, became stranded Friday afternoon due to closure. He said being stuck there has already cost him money.

"Since I've been here [Thursday,] I've lost at least $1,000 on this load," he said.

Simarjit Singh, another trucker, was attempting to get to Tracy on Friday and said though he could take the 101 Freeway North to the 46, he said that's extra miles and time.

"I have to contact my dispatcher and see what he says," he said. "I'm going to follow the instructions of my company. I have no options."

Meanwhile, a family traveling to Sacramento from Mazatlán, Mexico, also became stranded but decided to wait it out in Castaic until the roads clear up.

A rare blizzard warning went into effect for Los Angeles County mountains at 4 a.m. Friday and is scheduled to last until 4 p.m. Saturday.

National Weather Service forecasters said up to 5 feet of snow could accumulate in the mountains above 4,000 feet, accompanied by wind gusts topping 80 mph that will create "near zero visibility." Higher elevations could see as much as 8 feet of snow, with accumulations of 6 to 12 inches possible at elevations between 2,000 and 4,000 feet, "including most major mountain passes."

"Travel should be restricted to emergencies only," according to the agency. "If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle."

The cold storm system in Southern California is expected to intensify with heavy downpours and blizzard conditions in some areas.

According to the National Weather Service Los Angeles office -- which is based in Oxnard -- the blizzard warning is the first issued in the area since 1989, when a warning was also issued for the L.A. County mountains.

Rain and hail fell on parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties Thursday, and the Hollywood Sign got a light dusting of snow. Small amounts of snow also fell along the coast in Venice.

While the snow level dropped as low as 1,500 feet Thursday, it will increase to at least 2,000 feet by late Friday morning.

"This system will bring a broad swath of moderate to locally heavy rain and snow (to) the area," according to the National Weather Service. "Snow levels will fluctuate quite a bit as the southerly flow will raise levels to about 4,500 feet briefly on Friday afternoon. This could create a mixture of rain/snow at the I-5 Grapevine area before precipitation turns back to all snow Friday evening."