Southbound 5 Freeway at Grapevine reopened

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Southbound Interstate 5 at the Grapevine was reopened Friday morning about 8 a.m. but the northbound lanes remained closed because of icy road conditions, the California Highway Patrol said.

Drivers were being escorted by CHP cruisers on the southbound side of the freeway as a precaution, officials said. CHP planned to escort cars on the northbound side Friday morning, but don’t know what time that will begin.

The freeway was closed at the steep Grapevine grade Thursday afternoon as a cold winter storm pounded Southern California.

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Stranded motorists jammed hotels and parking lots of food outlets off Interstate 5 in Lebec on Thursday evening, trying to determine whether to wait out the reopening or find an alternate route. Truck drivers lined up along roadsides just off the freeway, near various food outlets.

At the Best Western Hotel in Lebec, which sold out of all rooms by early Thursday evening, many who were stranded crowded around tables in the breakfast room, watching the news and hoping for updates on the reopening of Interstate 5.

Tanya Viau said she sat for two hours on the freeway before being diverted off around 4:30 p.m. The deckhand for San Francisco ferries was headed from the Sacramento area to San Diego to visit her son, who had recently graduated.

‘I felt fortunate to get a room,’ Viau said. ‘I’ve been driving this route for 30 years and this is the first time I’ve ever been stranded.’ Jim McCluskey hurried out of the Best Western around 6:30 a.m. to try his luck getting onto the 58 Freeway and traversing the desert to try to get south. McCluskey had been headed to Castaic and turned up at the Best Western after being diverted from the freeway Thursday afternoon.

‘I’ve been stuck several times in the past, I’m used to it,’ he said.

Floyd Osborne and Dan Tobias, who were headed from Bakersfield to Lancaster, pored over computer maps to determine alternate routes.

Truck driver Samuel Watson, 23, said he arrived in Lebec around 1:30 p.m. Thursday and ended up getting stranded. He didn’t find out about the Grapevine being closed until he was already on the road from Ripon, Calif., to Torrance.

Watson ended up sleeping in the cab of his rig loaded with hazardous materials. He had extra warm clothing, adding he was always prepared and always had something to sleep on.

He was hoping to make it back to the Stockton area by Saturday to celebrate his 24th birthday.

Truck driver Ricardo Roman set out for an eight-hour trip from Sacramento and arrived in Lebec at 4 a.m. He was headed to Santa Fe Springs and was expected to make a delivery for Kohl’s department store at 8 a.m. Friday.

He said he had been in the trucking business for eight years and had enough clothes and food to get him through the ordeal.


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-- Ann Simmons