UPDATE (12/27/19): As of 10:45 a.m., CHP says I-5 has reopened in both directions, with CHP escorting traffic over the pass.
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A cold and blustery winter storm unleashed downpours and extensive snowfall on Southern California, triggering a tornado and snarling post-Christmas travel on major routes Thursday.
Snow shut down vital Interstate 5 in Tejon Pass through the mountains north of Los Angeles and stopped traffic on Interstate 15 over Cajon Pass in the inland region to the east.
I-15 finally reopened in both directions in the afternoon but then authorities later shut down about 45 miles of the freeway from Baker, California, to Primm, Nevada, on the way to Las Vegas because of snow and ice.
It reopened by Friday morning.
A truck driver was found unresponsive in a rig stopped along I-5 in Tejon Pass.
Kern County firefighters pronounced him dead, according to the California Highway Patrol’s online incident log.
It was not immediately known if the death was weather-related.
After being stuck for five hours in Cajon Pass, motorist Johnny Lim wasn’t sure he could reach Las Vegas, where he hoped to spend time after Christmas. He worried about driving his car through the pass when it reopens.
“The freeway is full of snow and ice,” he said, adding that his car “is not built for conditions like this.”
Snow also stopped or slowed traffic on other California roads, including heavily traveled Interstate 8 in eastern San Diego County, and numerous trees were toppled.
In San Diego County, a 60-year-old woman died Thursday when a car veered off a snowy road near Warner Springs and crashed into an embankment. The woman passenger wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and the driver was going too fast to control the car, California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Christy told KSWB-TV.
On Wednesday night, a small tornado briefly hopped across Ventura Harbor, the National Weather Service reported. Gusts downed five trees, according to the Ventura County Star. Winds up to 65 to 85 mph also caused minor damage to nearby buildings, forecasters said.
Localized flooding inundated roads and freeway lanes while snow fell to low elevations, leading to numerous traffic accidents.
The town of Wrightwood at the eastern end of the San Gabriel Mountains had received 25 inches of snow by midday.
Famed Palomar Observatory in the San Diego County mountains said it would be closed at least through the weekend because of heavy snowfall.
The following snow closures in Southern California remain in effect Friday morning:
- Highway 58 (the Barstow-Bakersfield Highway) was closed over Tehachapi Pass. That closure is between Towerline Road, near Edison, and Mojave
- Highway 33 was closed through Los Padres National Forest, from 6 miles north of Ojai to the Santa Barbara County line, near Ventucopa
- Highway 2 was closed through the San Gabriel Mountains, between La Cañada Flintridge and 5 miles west of Big Pines
- Highway 138 was closed between I-15 and two miles west of Highway 2
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