LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Crews on Friday reopened a key portion of a major California highway closed when flash floods sent a torrent of mud and debris onto the roadway, trapping dozens of motorists, officials said.
All lanes of Interstate 5, which runs from Mexico to Canada, were reopened Friday evening, the California Highway Patrol said.
Two major roadways were closed on Thursday when flash floods hit parts of the state. Forecasters warned on Friday of possible thunderstorms that could trigger more flash floods going into the weekend.
In Kern County on State Route 58 in the Tehachapi Pass, about 60 miles (97 km) north of Los Angeles, a mudslide on Thursday left nearly 200 vehicles, including 75 semi-trailer trucks, stuck in up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of mud, local sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said.
Dozens of vehicles also became stuck on Interstate 5 along the Grapevine mountain pass about 50 miles (80 km) north of Los Angeles, shutting down the region’s main north-south highway, state officials said.
By Friday evening, all lanes had been reopened, highway patrol officials aid.
Authorities placed nearly 300 stranded motorists and passengers in shelters overnight, Pruitt said. A handful of motorists chose to stay in their vehicles overnight, he said.
“It’s going to be a huge project to try to get this road cleared,” Pruitt said, adding that it could take days.
The Leona Valley, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Los Angeles, saw the greatest downpours on Thursday, with 3.58 inches (9 cm) of rain falling - most of that in a 30-minute period - and golf ball-sized hail thrown into the mix, National Weather Service meteorologist Robbie Munroe said.
Elsewhere in Southern California, several roads were washed out and there were reports of motorists having to be rescued from torrential flooding in northern Los Angeles County, he said.
A flash flood watch remained posted through Friday evening, advising of storm conditions that could unleash flash flooding in several mountain areas and in northern Los Angeles County’s Antelope Valley, which saw heavy flooding on Thursday.
There was also a slight chance of thunderstorms returning to the region on Saturday and Sunday, Munroe said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman, Eric Walsh and Ed Davies