Southland drivers face nightmare traffic after mudslides on major highways – Los Angeles Times
Commutes in northern Los Angeles County and eastern Kern County were a nightmare for drivers who tried to navigate the roads Friday after mudslides prompted the closures of two major highways and nearby roads.
Drivers making their way to Northern California were struggling to find a route, running into closed roads.
Four mudslides swallowed nearly 200 vehicles on California 58 east of Tehachapi in Kern County, according to the California Department of Transportation.
In a harrowing video, driver Jose Antonio Vargas films the moment a sea of mud overtakes vehicles on the 58. Vargas, in Spanish, frantically calls: “Someone call 911! Someone call 911! Help! The cars are being inundated!”
Drivers became trapped and were forced to abandon their vehicles.
The highway will be closed between Mojave and Tehachapi for several days. Caltrans suggests drivers take California 14 to California 178 to get into Bakersfield.
In northern Los Angeles County, all southbound lanes of Interstate 5 were closed between Parker and Grapevine roads, Caltrans said. The northbound lanes were reopened after 12:30 p.m., and the southbound lanes will be closed until 5 p.m., the California Highway Patrol said.
For drivers stuck on the 5, CHP suggested taking California 41 or 46 to the 101 Freeway to California 126 to get to their destination.
For three friends heading from Orange County to Three Rivers in Sequoia, the drive had been more of a struggle than they had expected.
The trio left around 10 p.m. Thursday, but when they reached Tehachapi Road, CHP stopped them and gave them an alternative route. By then, it was too dark and they tried to find a hotel.
But with all the hotels booked, the three were forced to stay in their car outside a Denny’s restaurant.
“It was like camping, but not camping,” Son Nguyen, 24, joked.
Other people who were supposed to come with them made the drive back home, unsure of how long the roads would be closed for.
“We just decided to stay up here and try in the morning,” Leeann Nguyen said. “We need this break.”
The three were planning to stay in Sequoia until Sunday to celebrate a birthday.
After pulling over on the side of a street Friday morning, because Backus Road in Mojave was closed, they tracked down an alternate route that they hoped would be open.
“I hope we get there,” said Kristina Nguyen. “We’re not going to drive two hours away and then two hours home.”
A handful of others pulled off on Mohave Tropico Road as they too tried to figure out a route through.
Jobe Carbajal, headed from Los Angeles to the Best in the West Jett Rally in Buttonwillow, ended up spending the night in his truck in Lancaster, surrounded by other trucks and cars.
“We weren’t prepared for that,” Carbajal said. “It was uncomfortable.”
For drivers who ignored the road closure signs on Backus Road, a few miles farther down they were met by another sign and a CHP officer directing them back the way they came.
CHP Officer Steve Nielsen pointed drivers to the California 14, as Tehachapi Willow Springs Road was closed and part of the road washed away.
Crews were working to reopen Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, he said.
“We’re dealing with a lot of people right now,” he said. “We’re stretched thin.”
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