Mountain resident seeks plan for I-5 closures

  • An icy hailstorm on the Interstate 5 last week led to a call for a meeting about what the wintermay bring in freeway closures. [photo by Jeff Zimmerman]

    An icy hailstorm on the Interstate 5 last week led to a call for a meeting about what the wintermay bring in freeway closures. [photo by Jeff Zimmerman]

By Patric Hedlund

Claudio Escobedo is thinking ahead about the winter weather that appears to be rushing at us quickly. The Lake of the Woods resident works in Sylmar. He consulted with State Assemblywoman Shannon Grove’s field representative Javier Reyes last week, seeking help in creating a plan that may assist the many residents of the Mountain Communities who commute everyday back and forth to the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles for work, but who sometimes get stuck far from home when the I-5 is unexpectedly closed.

“During recent winters we have ended up stranded in Castaic at the first signs of the smallest snowfall, because the Interstate 5 freeway gets closed by California Highway Patrol,” Escobedo said. “About three years ago,” he recalls, “a CHP patrol vehicle was parked by the closed gate. A line of vehicles filled with mountain residents would be waiting there to present our drivers’ licenses as proof of residence in the Frazier Mountain Communities. The CHP would allow us to enter the I-5 and go home.”

Escobedo says that within the last two years this has changed. “CHP simply closes the freeway and disappears from sight. They will not park by the gate anymore. If you want some information concerning the status of the closure and the probable opening of the freeway, you have to drive around town trying to find a highway patrol car parked somewhere.”

The Mountain Enterprise contacted the two CHP jurisdictions that patrol I-5 from Castaic to Lebec. The Fort Tejon office in Lebec covers from Highway 166 south to Highway 138. Lieutenant Craig Whitty was skeptical: “With these dry winters, we just haven’t had that many weather-related closures in the last two years,” he said, adding, “There have been no policy changes.”

“We haven’t had our ‘snowflake meeting’ yet this year,” Whitty said, at which local CHP coordinates procedures for winter, but he was adamant that there have been no changes regarding Frazier Park residents.

CHP’s Newhall office establishes and enforces I-5 closures at Castaic. Newhall officers patrol Interstate 5 from Hwy. 138 south through Castaic and Valencia. Officer Bruce Kelley replied to our call while on patrol in his CHP cruiser at I-5 and Lyons Avenue. He said closures this year have been caused by accidents. On September 24, for instance, four big rigs collided near Gorman, which led to an 8-hour closure of I-5’s northbound lanes.

During a brief, but fierce, hailstorm October 9 on the stretch of I-5 near Highway 138, four accidents occurred in a short time. But there were no closures that day.

Kelley said the only motorists who get by a Castaic closure are those who can prove they live in Paradise Ranch Mobile Park. “No one gets over the hill,” he said when asked if Frazier Mountain residents are allowed to pass. Pine Mountain resident Sandy Browne says she has been interested in alternate routes because of all the chaos in lanes being caused by construction on the I-5. Escobedo said when it appears he will be stranded at Castaic because of a closure, he has several times used an alternate route.

Alternate routes

“I take the road up to Lake Hughes to Highway 138 and then the Gorman Post Road (the back way to Gorman), then Peace Valley Road to Frazier Park,” Escobedo explained. “The snow and ice can be severe up near Lake Hughes also, but as a driver with experience in the snow, and driving with caution, I always get home to Lake of the Woods two to three hours later.”

CHP Lt. Whitty said he would prefer people take State Route 14 through Palmdale, than take Hwy. 138 to Gorman Post Road and use Peace Valley Road to Lebec. “Those winding roads near Lake Elizabeth are dangerous too,” he said, particularly in bad weather.

Proposed solution

Escobedo’s proposed solution is for Mountain Community motorists to park near the closure in Castaic and wait for CHP to run escorts to Frazier Park to help drivers get home.

Community meeting

“I suggested to Mr. Reyes that it will be a good idea to coordinate a meeting with our community and invite the CHP so we may explore some options,” Escobedo said, “so we can return home this coming winter.” Reyes said, “We are happy to help facilitate a community forum with CHP.”

Photo captions:

Paramedics from L.A. County Fire Stations 77 and 149 load patients into ambulances. One was transferred to a helicopter waiting nearby.

To see full stories with photos, please go to The Mountain Enterprise e-Edition

(login required)

You can have your newspaper delivered via mail! Just call 661-245-3794.

Also, this story and others are available right now at newsstands throughout the Mountain Communities.

 

Recent rain and hail storm leads to four accidents

By Jeff Zimmerman, Neenach

A fierce, early-season hail storm hit the Gorman area Wednesday, Oct. 9, dropping rain and ice pellets the size of small peas onto a crowded Interstate 5 in the afternoon.

Four high-speed accidents occurred at the height of the storm, with one vehicle overturning onto the transition road to the eastbound Highway 138 from southbound Interstate 5.

Paramedics from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and AMR Ambulance in Gorman extricated three victims from the overturned vehicle that sustained major damage. One was transported by helicopter to Antelope Valley Hospital. Two were taken to Henry Mayo Memorial Hospital in Newhall, CHP Officer Bruce Kelley said. He added that Interstate 5 was not closed during the clean-up of these accidents.

—Added reporting by P. Hedlund

 

To see full stories with photos, please go to The Mountain Enterprise e-Edition

(login required)

You can have your newspaper delivered via mail! Just call 661-245-3794.

Also, this story and others are available right now at newsstands throughout the Mountain Communities.

This is part of the October 18, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.