Falling snow and icy roads from an overnight storm produced a bevy of crashes on Interstate 15 in the High Desert on Wednesday, forcing a temporary shutdown of northbound lanes from D Street to Outlet Center Drive.
It began at approximately 5:02 a.m., after six to eight vehicles were involved in a collision due to icy roadways near the Oak Hill Road offramp on I-15 in Oak Hills, according to California Highway Patrol reports.
By 7:54 a.m., reports of four more collisions and spin-outs on the 15 prompted CHP to request northbound lanes shut down between D Street in Victorville and Outlet Center Drive in Barstow. The closure lasted from approximately 8:07 to 9:25 a.m., according to the CHP website.
During that time, two big rigs were involved in separate crashes outside the closed section — one collided with a vehicle northbound near the Blue Mountain/Stoddard Wells Road offramp; the other jackknifed headed southbound near the Highway 395 offramp.
The sheer quantity of incidents on the 15 were the major factor for the temporary closure of the northbound lanes, Caltrans spokesman Darin Cooke said. Cooke added that it's uncommon to shut down a major route.
"It's something we try to avoid at all costs," Cooke said.
In December 2008, the I-15 near the California-Nevada state line and a long stretch from the bottom of the Cajon Pass through Victorville was completely shut down due to snow. Cooke said that was the last I-15 closure that he could recall.
During the hour or so that the stretch of northbound lanes were inaccessible to through traffic, Caltrans brought cinders to help de-ice roads on both northbound and southbound lanes, he said.
CHP conducted traffic breaks and escorted vehicles at different intervals on the roadway, according to CHP spokesman Adam Croxton.
"It was a multi-purpose effort," Croxton said, "to slow folks down and get Caltrans in there."
I-15 wasn't the only road that caused strife to High Desert commuters Wednesday morning.
Traffic was backed up for miles on Summit Valley Road just north of Highway 138 in Hesperia between 7:40 to 9:37 a.m., with vehicles stuck in the snow.
On Highway 18 near the Mitsubishi plant in Lucerne Valley, the traffic jam lasted hours with reports of up to 30 vehicles stuck in the snow, according to CHP reports.
The inclement weather also forced several local schools to close their doors, including all schools in the Adelanto and Hesperia school districts, as well as all schools in the Victor Elementary School District and Victor Valley Union High School District and Victory Valley College.
Riverside Preparatory School and Oro Grande Elementary were two schools in the area which decided against canceling classes.
"Our first consideration was safety," said Joseph Andreasen, superintendent for the Oro Grande School District. A small team of three, including the district's director of transportation, scouted roads early in the morning with neighboring school district officials to assess conditions, Andreasen said.
After roads were deemed safe, officials decided to allow classes to begin as scheduled, even after neighboring districts made the decisions not to, Andreasen said.
District school buses headed out around 6 a.m. to pick up students as far away as Barstow.
"(Schools that decided to close) had a lot more snow up in the foothills then what we dealt with," Andreasen said.
In Barstow, where slight traces of snow stuck to the ground for a short period of time, Barstow Unified School District kept all schools open.
"The streets were clear. Our buses had no problem picking up students," said Jeff Malan, superintendent of BUSD. "It was a nice snow storm this morning (for them)."
Malan fielded a few calls from worried parents early in the morning, but he assured them schools would not be closed.
It's expected to be mostly sunny in the Barstow and Victorville areas through the weekend, with no sign of more rain or snow, according to the National Weather Service — news which should come as some relief to area motorists, law enforcement and Caltrans.
"It looks like things are starting to clear up which is a good sign," Cooke said early Wednesday afternoon. "Roads are safer."
Other areas of the state were dealing with the effects of the storm.
For the second time in two days, a scheduled baseball game in Bakersfield between California State University Bakersfield and Cal State Northridge was postponed due to weather. Tuesday's game will be played April 10. No new date has been set for Wednesday's rainout.
In Tehachapi, about 125 miles north of Los Angeles, it was like New Year's Eve overnight, said Celina Conant, manager of the Best Western Plus Country Park Hotel. Every room in town was full.
In Sonora, about 300 miles north of Tehachapi, as many as 75 vehicles crashed or were stranded on Highway 49 and nearby roadways when it started snowing heavily in the Sierra Nevada foothills on Tuesday, California Highway Patrol Lt. Scott Clamp said.
The storm from the Gulf of Alaska brought the first significant rainfall to Northern California in several weeks.
Experts say California has had a colder-than-normal winter overall.
Staff writer Martial Haprov and the Associated Press contributed to this report.