Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 12:46 am | Fair 60º

 
 
 
 

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I-5 Closure Snarls Highway 101 Traffic in Santa Barbara

Motorists seek alternate route after mudslides shut down major north-south arterial north of Los Angeles; some lanes reopened

Highway 101 traffic through Santa Barbara was slowed to a crawl Friday after Interstate 5 was shut down north of Los Angeles due to major mudslides. Caltrans had the highway parially reopened by 4:15 p.m.
Highway 101 traffic through Santa Barbara was slowed to a crawl Friday after Interstate 5 was shut down north of Los Angeles due to major mudslides. Caltrans had the highway parially reopened by 4:15 p.m. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Closure of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles was causing major traffic tie-ups and fraying nerves Friday in Santa Barbara as another wave of rain led to the troubles on Highway 166.

The major north-south route over the Grapevine was shut down Thursday after thunderstorms doused the region, causing mudslides that trapped dozens of motorists.

Meanwhile, heavy rain led to large debris flows, approximately 50 yards wide, along and across the Highway 166 near Cottonwood Canyon. 

Additionally, a large bus became stuck in the mud in the area as officials prepared to close the east-west roadway linking the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley.

The I-5 closure sent a huge volume of extra traffic to Highway 101, the other major north-south arterial in California.

As of 6:30 p.m., all northbound and southbound lanes of I-5 had been reopened, but traffic was still moving slowly over the Grapevine, according to Caltrans spokesman Colin Jones.

Related: Some 100 Vehicles Stranded Due to Flooding on Highway 166

“It’s heavy traffic on a Friday, weekend traffic, and now we’re heading into the commute hour,” Jones said. “We’re just telling people it’s going to be heavy, and just be patient out there. It’s going to take longer to get where they’re going.”

The freeway congestion through Santa Barbara County was pushing a lot of motorists onto surface streets, causing back-ups there.

In North County, a steady stream big rigs exited northbound and southbound Highway 101 at Betteravia Road in Santa Maria to visit The Fuel Connection truck stop. 

One driver said the trek from Cerritos to Carpinteria took 5 1/2 hours — “It’s crazy.”

Another driver, Charles McClure of Las Vegas, was headed to get to bite of food at neighboring Pappy’s restaurant before tackling the lines for fuel.

He was supposed to be in Colton, California, on Thursday night.

“It is very frustrating,”  McClure said. “All your southbound (traffic) from northern California is all on one highway so it's almost like you're going good and then all of a sudden coming to a stop. It's almost like L.A. traffic in the afternoon, but worse."

He hoped to at least make Ventura by Friday night.

Pappy’s, a longtime Santa Maria diner next to the truck stop, saw a big boost in business since Interstate 5 closed at the Grapevine.

“It’s a lot busier,” said manager Pamela Working. “It’s at least 50 percent busiier.”

An employee who showed up to open the restaurant Friday morning noted the heavy truck traffic, alerting managers so Pappy's could boost its staffing for the day.

“This is the most significant increase I’ve seen,” said Working, who had been at the restaurant for four years.

Drivers appeared to be in a great mood, despite the detours, Working said.

“I know it’s hard on them,” Working said. “They seem to be taking it in stride.”

[Click here for an update on statewide traffic conditions]

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Big-rigs converged on a truck stop off Betteravia Road in Santa Maria Friday afternoon after Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles was closed due to mud slides. Click to view larger
Big-rigs converged on a truck stop off Betteravia Road in Santa Maria Friday afternoon after Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles was closed due to mud slides. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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