After a rough night out on the highways, Caltrans crews were able to re-open 395 today as far as Mammoth. The Highway Patrol was escorting drivers into town, but considering the zero visibility last night, this was a drastic improvement. When Bill Le Fever and I drove up the Sherwin Grade this morning, the road was relatively clear. Only the wind scoured hills and sculpted snow gave any sign of the sandblaster conditions of hours before.
Long lines of cars built up at Toms Place as Highway Patrol officers escorted drivers toward Mammoth. A big rig stuck at the Green Church left one lane open. The driver of the rig said that he spent the night in his cab after his brakes froze. Once he had stopped on the highway, the wind blew his trailer in a slightly jackknifed position.
The mechanic with Britts Diesel, called in to assist the rig last night, also spent the night on the road. When talked to him today, he was working to thaw out the brakes so the driver could turn the rig back toward Bishop.
The storm was far heavier on wind than snow, and at times the highway appeared to be fine today. Other stretches of road where the drifts had blown in, had only one lane plowed through. With the highway patrol escorting traffic, the Caltrans crews and their plows worked to get the highway open.
Tuesday night, 395 over Conway Summit shut down due to an avalanche north of Lee Vinning. Crews had not opened that section of highway as of news time.
After a night of vehicles stranded on the highway because of the zero visibility, highway patrol dispatchers say that as far as they know there are no more people trapped in their vehicles on local roads. This is always a concern when 395 shuts down as some drivers try to get around the closure by taking the less travelled roads like Lower Rock Creek, Benton Crossing and Crowley Lake drive.
395 in the Eastern Sierra shut down completely Sunday night due to high winds and blowing snow. Tuesday night was a repeat performance by the winter winds. Forecasters are calling for another windy storm on Thursday. Whether the weather goes for the second encore performance is yet to be seen.