California Highways Reopen After Snowstorm

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.

Some drivers apparently couldn't wait, however. A motorist waiting for the southbound lanes to reopen was arrested for investigation of hit-and-run driving after running through barricades and striking a California Department of Transportation worker, causing minor injuries, authorities said.

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.

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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.

And while sunshine returned to Southern California, lingering effects of the storm may have caused at least one traffic death.

In Santa Clarita, a driver was thrown from a car and died on an onramp to State Route 14 about 20 miles north of Los Angeles. The car rolled over on a stretch of road made dangerous by black ice, the CHP reported.

The highway was closed Wednesday between the high desert Antelope Valley and Los Angeles, where thousands of people who drive an hour or so over the San Gabriel Mountains to jobs had been unable to return home. Some went to Red Cross shelters or motels but others took their place in a line of cars waiting for the road to reopen.

"We're tired, hungry. We don't want to get out of line ... so we're just hoping that soon it'll open," Aline Festekjian, a passenger in a car waiting to get off the freeway in Palmdale, told KCAL-TV.

Traffic heading north into the Antelope Valley resumed with CHP escorts Thursday afternoon, but southbound lanes remained closed. The adjacent Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road also were reopened.

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.