A winter storm brought California much-needed rain and even a rare tornado, but the breadth and severity of snowfall in much of the state caught drivers by surprise and left hundreds stranded on mountain highways.
A late barrage of snow forced the shutdown of a 60-mile stretch of Highway 58 between Los Angeles and Bakersfield late Tuesday, California Highway Patrol Officer Ed Smith said.
"Travel conditions deteriorated quickly," Smith told KCAL-TV. "The freeways just aren't safe to pass on right now."
The snow brought hundreds of vehicles to a stop and sent the patrol and road crews scrambling to the scene, where they were helping drivers to slowly exit near Tehachapi. No injuries were reported.
A similar scene played out shortly about 300 miles to the north, where dozens of cars were either stuck in the snow or involved in accidents near the rural community of Sonora. About 50 to 75 vehicles became stranded or were in collisions on Highway 49 and nearby roadways when it started snowing heavily in the Sierra Nevada foothills, said CHP Lt. Scott Clamp.
"Travelers were just not prepared," Clamp said. There were a handful of minor injuries, but no major injuries, he said.