Under a rising full moon, snow shimmering blue all around (top), snow play visitors from Castaic took an unexpected ride Friday, Feb. 6. Ricky Padilla was driving a Honda Civic without chains when he slipped off Cuddy Valley Road at five miles per hour. Interstate Towing helped get the Honda back up on the road. Padilla and his friend were able to drive back to Castaic, smiling. (Inset) The "Ice" sign on Mil Potrero Highway covered in...ice. (Bottom left inset) It may have been the Maturkanic family from Camarillo?s first trip to the snow, Sunday, Feb. 8, but the children quickly got the hang of snowballs and sledding. (Bottom right inset) This isn?t a parking lot, it is the middle of Woodland Drive on Monday, Feb. 9 where this pile of cars all spun out of control and came to rest huddled together. Robert Carrington's red Jeep Cherokee is in front in this photo, just 90 seconds before a white pick-up truck lost control and crashed into Carrington's car, then continued skidding toward Mil Potrero Highway. Kern County Sheriff's deputies decided it was too dangerous for them to drive up to the crash area. They offered to help people get to the clubhouse. Carrington decided to walk home. His car was towed to an auto body shop in Lebec the next day.
By Patric Hedlund
In the driving snow of Monday, Feb. 9, at about 12:40 p.m., Robert Carrington of Pine Mountain nudged the nose of his red Jeep Cherokee into the intersection at St. Bernard and Woodland Drive. People standing at the corner called to him with a warning, “Don’t come out here! Go back!”
He tried to make a U-turn, but as soon as his all-terrain tires hit the ice on Woodland, he skidded sideways down the road, coming to rest with a bump against five other cars that were huddled like a pile of stranded kittens nestled against a snowbank.
I was on foot— and sliding down the snow-covered road on my derrièr—attempting to take a photo of the severe traffic problems caused by the icy conditions reported by California Highway Patrol.
I asked Carrington if he was going to stay with his car. “It can’t get any worse,” he said.
Less than 90 seconds later a white pickup truck inched forward from the stop sign at the same St. Bernard intersection, lost traction and spun into the center of Woodland in a perfect arabesque, crashing into the front and then the back of Carrington’s vehicle.
The truck ricochetted into another 360 degree twirl and slid sideways down the center of the road toward Mil Potrero Highway.
Robert Robles, supervisor of the maintenance yard and of plowing for Pine Mountain Club, said his plow trucks have sometimes taken that kind of mid-road pirouette. In icy times, Woodland is especially treacherous to navigate, even with snow tires and fourwheel drive. I asked him if the plowers were also spreading cinders.
“You can’t put on cinders until you are finished plowing, or you just scoop the cinders up again,” he said, logically.
Barriers had been placed at Bernina to prevent cars from entering Woodland.
On February 9, a layer of snow that had melted the day before froze again into black ice camouflaged by the fluffy white snow that fell midmorning Monday—a trap for those whose normally competent vehicles were suddenly helpless.
Patrice Stimpson, with the Pine Mountain Patrol sent out this alert:
“I am e-mailing everyone I know in PMC to warn you that driving conditions today are especially treacherous. Even 4WD with studded snow tires will not help you…the Patrol vehicle slid sideways down the highway. Scary. Mil Potrero Highway at the S curves is currently blocked by someone that slid sideways. STAY HOME! DON’T RISK IT!”
Over in Frazier Park, skidding on ice took second place to tires spinning on mud slicks, making being a pedestrian seem the wisest course for many.
On Friday, Feb. 6 during the first pulse of the triplepronged storm, two El Tejon Unified School District buses on opposite sides of the mountain left the road. One got a tire stuck in mud near Lebec Oaks Road on the east side of the mountain (according to reporter Chuck Noble) and another needed help from a tow truck when it slid on snow off Mil Potrero and Cuddy Valley Road to the west, according to CHP reports.
Although the school district did not answer our request for a statement, witnesses said they believed students had already been delivered safely to their bus stops before the events took place.
Weather buffs were happy to note that the precipitation levels for the year are starting to climb, boosting our annual totals closer to historic norms.
Jim and Fae Lumsden of Lebec, who own what they call Eagles Perch Acres (surrounded by Tejon Ranch Company land) provided the chart above.
Jim Lumsden announced Wednesday that by February 11 at 4:30 p.m. this month has brought 1.36 inches of the wet stuff, for a 2008-09 season total so far of 10.15 inches.
The weather season is over at the end of June. It appears hopeful, from this one snapshot at the eastern edge of the Mountain Communities, that we may be heading toward replenishing our aquifers.
This is part of the February 13, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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