Saturday, October 13, 2007

Happenings: October Rains, October Fire

Aftermath of the accident (all photos in this post courtesy of Sterling King).

“Flames shot out of both ends of the tunnel, rising as high as 100 feet into the air, according to firefighters at the scene[1]."

Despite last night's rain, there’s smoke rising in the Newhall Pass. Indeed, nearly twenty hours after a vast and deadly pile-up of big rigs, the fire deep within the truck route tunnel--the site of the mega-accident--continues to burn. (If you want the latest, KHTS is covering the story and providing frequent updates).

We’re waiting for a detailed account of what happened, but we know at least two people have died and tens (hundreds?) of thousands of motorists have been and will be effected as a result of the accident that’s closed the I-5. How long the freeway remains closed depends on the degree of structural damage sustained by the still smoldering tunnel running below it.

I talked to someone who was driving on McBean over the I-5 this morning, and she said that people were actually reversing off of the on-ramp before they got stuck in the vehicular mire below. Alternative routes using the Old Road and Highways 14 and 126 are packed. Within SCV, peripherals like San Fernando Road/Main Street/To-be-Renamed-Avenue were scarcely moving this afternoon. Even the surface streets by my house were running slow earlier today. Of course, being annoyed with traffic becomes something of a luxury when we consider what happened to two of those who died in the accident. Unfortunately, we still don’t know their names.

Cars carrying people that should be equipped with patience and extremely good bladder control.

I have an uncle who told me that SCV’s number one fear should be a fire along the 5. His reasoning is that there aren’t a whole lot of ways in and out of this community. The fragility of our transportation infrastructure may be getting a lot of attention today, but it's been a fact of life since Clarita came into being.

In August of 1962, my grandparents were living on Spruce Street in Newhall. My grandma recalls being able to see flames on the mountaintops and masses of smoke as two fires—one near Hasley Canyon, one near Placerita—coursed through dry brush with the help of Santa Ana winds. These simultaneous blazes effected Highways 14 and 126 as well as the I-5. Thus, Grandma (and my toddler of a Mom) had the car packed but no idea of where to drive[2].

Those fires, our two "big" quakes, and today’s fallout from the tunnel accident are poignant reminders of just how much stock our car culture places in a very tiny handful of roads. It’s a reminder that being trapped in Santa Clarita isn’t always just a feeling—sometimes it’s a reality.

[1]From AP reporter Noaki Schwartz’s article which, along with KHTS’s report, has informed my writing.
[2]Daryl Manzer recounts in detail what went on--and how it could have been much worse--here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The I-5 should open up again early this week according to the news. At least I don't have to drive to LA for work! Another reason to work local. That and keeping your sanity.