Breaking News Blog

Wednesday, Feb 20 2013 08:33 AM

Storm leaves behind knee-high snow in Tehachapi

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Highway 58 remains closed Wednesday morning east of Bakersfield at Tower Line Road due to snow and icy conditions. About one mile west of Hart Flat a big-rig and a car are stuck in the snow. No one was near the vehicles.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The cold winter storm that began dropping snow in the Tehachapi Valley at about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday had closed Highway 58 by 9 p.m. The highway remains closed this morning eastbound at Town Line Road.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Road workers are out early Wednesday morning on the old canyon road near Bodfish after snow fell most of the night before.

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  4. 4 of 16

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Snow blankets the Lake Isabella/Bodfish area Wednesday morning.

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  5. 5 of 16

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The Smokey Bear fire prevention sign was dusted with snow during the overnight storm near the U.S. Forest Service fire station at Democrat.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bill Kellogg says the snowfall stated very slowly then suddenly there was a lot of snow on the ground. He spent Wednesday morning shoveling snow from a neighbor's driveway on East E Street in Tehachapi before starting on his own. He says he hasn't seen so much snow in a long time.

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  7. 7 of 16

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bill Kellogg clears a walkway on East E. Street in Tehachapi Wednesday morning. He says he hasn't seen so much snow in a long time.

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  8. 8 of 16

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Julia Morgan seems to enjoy the snow day in Tehachapi Wednesday morning.

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  9. 9 of 16

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Many people stranded in Tehachapi spent the night at the Holiday Inn. By Wednesday morning many were anticipating the opening of Highway 58 after a snow storm closed the highway.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A train winds through the Tehachapi mountains near Highway 58 and Tehachapi after a snowstorm dumped several inches of snow and closed Highway 58.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Birds are free to land safely on the center divider on Highway 58 between Keene and Tehachapi after a heavy snowfall through the night Tuesday and Wednesday morning closed the highway.

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  12. 12 of 16

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Plows roll between Keene and Tehachapi to clear Highway 58 after a heavy snowfall through the night Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

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  13. 13 of 16

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Looking east down 18th Street, residents had a nice view of the snow-capped mountains from the center of downtown Bakersfield.

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  14. 14 of 16

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Three-year-old Alora Trindle, foreground, plays in the snow in Tehachapi Wednesday afternoon with her siblings Abigail, 8, left, and Alaina, 10.

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  15. 15 of 16

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Johnny Medina heads out in his neighborhood with a shovel to break up snow that stops the flow of the snow melt Wednesday afternoon in Tehachapi. He says in a small town people have to watch out for each other.

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  16. 16 of 16

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Tehachapi mailman Bill Lewis makes his deliveries Wednesday afternoon.

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BY LAURA LIERA, Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

Snow covered restaurant door locks, snowed in guests at hotels and exhausted snow plows in Tehachapi and surrounding areas during this latest storm.

The accumulation of snow forced the closure of schools in Tehachapi, Frazier Park, Caliente and Mojave, as well.

Lake Isabella and Frazier Park saw the accumulation of two inches of snow that melted Wednesday when the sun shined. Tehachapi got a walloping 10 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.

But we may be getting a break from the snow. William Peterson, meteorologist for the NWS in Hanford, said no other winter storms are in the near forecast.

“We are getting another high pressure this next week and temperatures will be gradually warming up like they were a week ago,” he said.

Wednesday morning, Interstate 5 was closed at approximately 7 a.m. and then at about 11:30 a.m., traffic was being escorted in both directions.

The snow started causing problems on Highway 58 Tuesday night, when a couple hundred cars were backed up in traffic as the road became icy and snowy.

California Highway Patrol Officer Edward Smith said the traffic formed because cars spun out due to the icy road conditions.

“Once they all came to a stop, they couldn’t continue to drive at the same speed so that is why there was a traffic back-up,” he said.

The CHP closed Highway 58 at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night. But officers helped get the traffic to a safe place and eventually the highway was cleared at about midnight.

But the impact of the snow storm was felt Wednesday morning.

Bear Valley Springs, located in the Tehachapi Mountains, had trouble clearing streets because of continuous snow flurries and mechanical issues with the plows.

“We prepared for the snowstorm a week ago,” said Larry Tuma, superintendent of public works for Bear Valley. “But we were not expecting so much snowfall.”

Tuma had 10 plows sent to maintenence last week to prevent any delays, but three plows were down due to major mechanical issues that could not be fixed in time. Throughout Wednesday, three more plows broke down and he was left with only four working plows.

The lack of snowplows was a concern for a local grocery store in Bear Valley.

Eddie Ray, an employee of Bear Valley Market, said the store didn’t have a plowed parking lot.

“I had customers coming in complaining that their home streets hadn’t been plowed either,” Ray said. “It’s a problem because even those with 4X4 trucks were getting stuck.”

The day before, many of these customers had passed by the market to pick up milk, cheese, bread, cereal, frozen pizza and other groceries so they’d be prepared for the snowstorm.

“They came in the evening yesterday but a lot more are coming in today to buy whatever was left from yesterday,” he said.

With the snow accumulation almost knee-high, local Tehachapi Best Western manager Celina Conant had no available rooms Tuesday night. Both the Best Western Mountain Inn and Country Park hotels were booked to capacity.

“Counting all rooms in both hotels, we had 120 occupied rooms,” Conant said. Whenever snow falls heavily in Tehachapi, according to Conant, almost every hotel or motel in town is booked and some people even sleep in their cars because they can’t find a hotel room in time.

During snowstorms, hotel guests feel unsettled and frightened because they don’t know how long they will be snowed in.

“Some guests have never seen the snow so when they are told they can’t leave because of weather conditions they panic but we try and calm their nerves as much as we can,” Conant said.

Paul Jones, a NWS meteorologist, said the snowfall and cold conditions are normal for this time of year.

“This snow forecast is normal for our winter cycle and we expect the valley to have cold temperatures for the next two days,” Jones said Wednesday.

Although the snow covered her restaurant door locks, Mary Lou Vachon, owner of The Apple Shed restaurant, didn’t mind clearing a pathway to her restaurant.

“We cleared a pathway for customers to use but the parking lot is completely snowed in,” Vachon said. “But it looks really pretty, all covered in white that I already uploaded a new picture onto our website.”

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