Year-End Storm Strands Drivers on Southern California Mountain Roads

Roads to and from mountain communities, such as Big Bear, turned into snow-covered parking lots after a powerful winter storm slammed Southern California

A bone-chilling Southern California storm stranded more than 100 motorists on Tuesday on snowbound mountain roads in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

Firefighters and law enforcement, some using tracked vehicles, helped rescue drivers from vehicles trapped after snow and ice coated roads during the heaviest snowfall of the season.

Tracey Martinez, a San Bernardino County Fire Department spokeswoman, said 136 people were stranded late Tuesday in about a foot of snow along Highway 138 near Crestline.

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Firefighters finished the overnight rescues by 3 a.m. Wednesday, and no serious crashes or injuries were reported. Some motorists could drive away after snowplows cleared away the powder, while other people left their cars on the highway and walked to a shelter at church or their homes.

Fifty vehicles were trapped by snow and ice roads in two locations on the slopes of Mt. Baldy east of LA early Wednesday on either side of the LA-San Bernardino county line, uphill and downhill from Baldy Village, said Ryan Beckers, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

Calls began coming in from stranded motorists around 7 p.m. Tuesday, as drivers found increasing difficulty negotiating the 10 percent grade and tight hairpin bends on the descent from the Baldy ski lifts, Beckers said.

The overnight storm snowfall turned Lake Elsinore into a winter wonderland. Vanessa Ruiz reports for Today in LA on Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014

About 25 vehicles were stranded uphill from the village, with another 25 caught downhill from the village, Beckers said. All motorists had been evacuated by 4:45 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol online incident log, but their vehicles remained on the road.

Rescued motorists were being sheltered at a nearby county fire station until a shelter could be established at Upland Magnolia Recreation Center, Beckers said.

The snowy weather conditions are to continue into Wednesday, with a winter storm warning issued for Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange counties until 10 a.m.

On Highway 330, chains are required on all vehicles, except four-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels, from  four miles east of the junction of the 210 Freeway to the junction of State Route 18.


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On Highway 18, chains are required on all vehicles except four-wheel-drive vehicles with snow tires on all four wheels from north of the junction of State Route 189 to the San Bernardino National Forest.

On the Ortega Highway, State Route 74 is closed from Grand Avenue to the Orange County line due to snow and stuck vehicles. It is unknown when it will reopen.

Southbound lanes of the 15 Freeway in the Cajon Pass were shut down at Main Street in Hesperia because too many vehicles got stuck in the snow, said Terri Kasinga, a spokeswoman for CalTrans.

The plan was to push vehicles off to the side before trying to reopen the freeway. There was no word when it would reopen.

A wind advisory was in effect in the area of the Ronald Reagan (118) and San Diego (405) freeways in Mission Hills. A wind advisory also was issued for the Golden State (5) Freeway between Lake Hughes and Fort Tejon near the top of the Grapevine, according to the CHP, which is advising motorists to use care.

Southern California Edison reported nearly 6,000 customers without power overnight. That figure dropped to about 500 Wednesday morning.

High winds also caused at least eight trees to fall, with one smashing into a house in La Crescenta. The storm caused the massive tree to tumble just after 10 p.m. Tuesday in the 4900 block of Ramsdell Avenue.

It is unknown if anyone was in the house at this time, but the home's living room was badly damaged. A van parked in driveway was also crushed.

High winds in Orange County caused havoc, with a tree hitting two vehicles in the 400 block of South Olive Street in Anaheim just after 9 p.m. Just over an hour later a tree toppled onto a  vehicle in the block 6300 Cornell Drive in the Huntington Beach area, blocking the roadway. 

Rose Parade revelers camping out will need some serious winter weather gear as freezing temperatures grip Southern California. Kathy Vara reports for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014.

Finally, a large tree fell at 11 p.m., blocking a private cul-de-sac in the 10200 block of Ambervale Lane in the Cowan Heights area.

The storm out of Canada dropped snow in the Antelope Valley and at low elevations in the San Gabriel Mountains as wind and ice created horrendous travel conditions. The cold spell was expected to last through New Year's Day.

Pablo Kay and Gadi Schwartz contributed to this report.

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