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Snow’s siren call leads to hours-long traffic waits on San Diego mountain highway

Bumper-to-bumper traffic
Traffic headed up to San Diego County’s Mount Laguna was bumper to bumper on Tuesday, the day after a winter storm blanketed the mountains in snow.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The siren song of snow drew so many San Diegans to the East County mountains Tuesday that traffic backups led officials to close Interstate 8 exits to the road into Mount Laguna.

“According to one officer on the scene it’s about a 4-hour wait to get up the mountain with gridlocked traffic,” the California Highway Patrol’s Border Communications Center tweeted.

About noon, the CHP closed both westbound and eastbound offramps to the Sunrise Highway, which leads to Mount Laguna. The ramps opened more than two hours later, but shortly before 3 p.m., the county shut down northbound traffic on Sunrise Highway at Old Highway 80.

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CHP Officer Jeff Christy, who worked traffic control on Sunrise Highway all day, said the amount of traffic “was just tremendous.”

“It was understandable,” he said. “Everybody’s been cooped up [because of] COVID. Unfortunately, we are not designed for this volume of traffic up here.”

Christy said some motorists waited for two hours before giving up, turning around and leaving. Others pulled off to the side — there’s not much of a shoulder — to park and play.

Then came the decision to close the county road, also known as S-1.

“We didn’t have a choice,” Christy said. “The traffic was stopped for three miles and emergency crews couldn’t get through.”

For those who made it, there was a payoff of sorts. The storm dropped about 5 inches of snow on Mount Laguna, according to the National Weather Service’s San Diego office.

Figueroa writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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