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Drivers rescued from snowy mountain highway near Los Angeles

Dozens of drivers were stranded after a crash blocked a mountain highway near Los Angeles and heavy snow then fell.

By Frances Burns

CRESTLINE, Calif., Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Firefighters used snowcats with tank treads early Wednesday to rescue scores of drivers from a highway through the mountains near Los Angeles.

About 140 people were rescued, officials said. Fifty spent the night in the First Baptist Church in Crestline, which was transformed into a temporary shelter.

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San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said the backup began with a crash late Tuesday that blocked Highway 138 in the San Bernardino Mountains. Heavy snow then trapped the drivers with about a foot falling in the area.

The Snowcats, which can handle any kind of weather, allowed firefighters to reach the drivers, who had been using their cell phones to make distress calls.

Firefighters from several departments worked in the small hours to reach the stranded drivers and get them to safety. Tracey Martinez, a county fire department spokeswoman, said the job was done by about 3 a.m.

Snowplows were brought in from nearby ski resorts to clear parts of the highway, Martinez said. That allowed some drivers to get out on their own.

Drivers were stranded on some other mountain roads in the region. The National Weather Service said areas as low as 2,000 feet got at least a dusting of snow.

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