Mess in Newhall Pass *

Newhall Pass messDon't plan on sailing in or out of Los Angeles on Interstate 5 (or the Antelope Freeway, for that matter) any time soon. Last night's conflagration in the truck tunnel beneath I-5 is still not fully under control, and the structural integrity of the freeway remains in question. Even by L.A. standards this is a bad one, as the scanner-listening website Code 6 Charles observed during the night.

Holy I-5 Cluster ---- Batman...LAFD has dispatched a full physical rescue assignment and the County has thrown a ton of resources at it, too. LAFD has a helo moving up there for observation. The CHP CAD is pretty wild to look at. It's incident #3700 on the CAD. The CHP is shutting down the 5 in both directions, which is a rare occurrence except if it's snowing in the Grapevine.

It's such a mess up there that the County and City have been unable to establish a joint-command and it's every man for himself....

The entire tunnel is on fire, with multiple explosions from the trucks burning inside. The incident itself is classified in the County jurisdiction, according to Division 3, but all LAFD resources on scene are being used to aid the County.

The scene is less chaotic this afternoon, but only by degrees. The episode began when up to 15 semi-trucks collided chain-reaction style inside the tunnel, one of them apparently a fuel truck. Authorities said this afternoon that two three people are dead, and ten injured. When I-5 will reopen is impossible to say until the tunnel's structure can be checked. Southbound traffic on California's most important north-south highway is being diverted to Magic Mountain Parkway in Santa Clarita, then detouring via San Fernando Road to the 14 Freeway. But if you can, use California 126 to peel west across Ventura County and just get away from the mess. Northbound traffic was being shunted onto the 14 just north of the San Fernando Valley. Traffic is heavy on The Old Road and all the main surface streets, and delays on the freeway are long. If you have the local savvy to avoid the area completely, or a good map, you should. Consider Little Tujunga Canyon or Angeles Crest over the San Gabriel Mountains, or use U.S. 101 to transit Los Angeles.

Evening update: Southbound lanes may reopen Tuesday, northbound lanes some time in the future.

* Sunday stories: The L.A. Times talks to truck drivers about long-standing fears of the tunnel under I-5. Also:

Los Angeles Times mainbar, gallery, map graphic, blog
Daily News mainbar, commute sidebar, interactive map
TV websites: 2, 4, 5

Photo: Daily News / Gene Blevins


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