LOS ANGELES -- Thousands of motorists began moving Thursday after being stranded overnight as snow and ice made highways too dangerous for travel through the mountains of Southern California.
Shortly before noon, the California Highway Patrol began escorting 1,000 cars and trucks at a time through the 4,000-foot-high Grapevine segment of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles. The main artery linking Los Angeles with the Central Valley and Northern California was closed for nearly 24 hours by treacherous conditions in Tejon Pass.
The cold storm was responsible for at least one death in the predawn hours on the southbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway in Newhall Pass, where a vehicle spun out on a patch of black ice, went off an onramp and into an embankment, where it rolled several times, the CHP reported.
Road conditions improved, but temperatures remained cold Friday morning. Readings in the low 30s were reported in valley areas. Temperatures in the high 40s are forecast for those areas Friday afternoon.
An impatient motorist heading to Los Angeles repeatedly drove through barricades on the snow-closed southbound Golden State (5) Freeway at the southern Kern County town of Grapevine and hit a Caltrans worker, who suffered minor injuries. The driver was chased into Los Angeles County and arrested by CHP officers on suspicion of hit-and-run.
The interstate was one of several major arteries that were closed by blowing snow, slush and ice on Wednesday. Thursday morning, vehicles began moving through snow-blanketed mountains lit by brilliant sun.
Interstate 15 was reopened over the 4,190-foot Cajon Pass east of Los Angeles but it took until around noon to reopen a 50-mile stretch in the Mojave Desert that is on the main route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Some Metrolink commuter trains running between the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles were delayed up to 45 minutes and one was canceled because of weather. Spokesman Francisco Oaxaca said train crews were late reporting to work because they had to rest for a federally mandated number of hours. Road closures kept some replacement crews from arriving.
The storm dumped as much as 4 feet of snow on the Big Bear ski resort region in the San Bernardino Mountains, said James Oh, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in San Diego.
Schools were closed Thursday, many of them for the fourth straight day, in several high desert and mountain districts.
As freeways were reopened, the snow emergency focus shifted to residential streets and country roads in Lancaster, Palmdale and rural areas like Acton,
Lancaster has had four snowplows running with only a three-hour break since Thursday morning, but had only cleared one lane in each direction on its main arteries. Snow-covered side streets were left to melt in the sun, said Public Works Director Randy Williams.
"Snowplowing is something that we don't get a lot of practice doing in Lancaster," he said. City crews started practice-plowing on rural roads on the city's west side until they felt confidant to move into the city proper.
The sun had cleared many residential streets by midday, he said. Officials in Palmdale said ice and snow on their streets were melting as well.