LAS VEGAS (AP) - Gamblers on the Las Vegas Strip awoke to snow flurries Monday morning as part of a winter storm that turned the main highway between Southern and Central California into a snowy, icy parking lot.
Hundreds of motorists returning from the New Year's holiday found themselves stuck after Interstate 5 was closed for a second day over the 4,160-foot-high Tejon Pass, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.
The California Highway Patrol closed a 30-mile stretch of the freeway shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday because of blowing snow. Blizzard conditions eased to light snow flurries early Monday but the road remained clogged with snow and patches of ice. The Highway Patrol finally started escorting vehicles over the pass Monday afternoon in groups of about 500.
"It took us two hours to go five miles," said Charlie Crandall, who was trying to return north after visiting relatives in San Diego. He and a friend were lucky enough to find nearby hotel rooms Sunday night, but hundreds more didn't get lodging, and the cars kept coming.
"A lot of people slept in their cars," said Crandall, 55.
Other drivers spent hours crawling over Interstate 15's snowy Cajon Pass to get back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, where there was a trace of snow Monday at the official measuring station near McCarran International Airport.
"You don't come to Las Vegas and think, 'Hey, it's going to snow,'" said Josh Hansen, 22, of Los Angeles, who was posing with friends amid flurries next to the iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign. "It's really weird."
National Weather Service meteorologist John Adair said there won't be any accumulation near the hotels and casinos, but foothills neighborhoods several miles west of the Strip got one or more inches of snow, and up to 6 inches of snow fell overnight in Pahrump, a high desert community about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
Snow flurries typically fall in Las Vegas several times a year. The city's snowfall record was set Jan. 4-5, 1974, when 9 inches fell in 24 hours.
The weather service predicted more snow Monday at elevations as low as 1,500 feet. On Sunday, suburban Santa Clarita just north of Los Angeles got a rare snowfall.
In Montana and North Dakota, Amtrak expected to resume normal service Monday after a weekend weather stoppage. Snow, freezing temperatures and subzero wind chills had led Burlington Northern Santa Fe to halt passenger traffic on its tracks, while freight trains ran at slower speeds.
In Utah, officials found the body of a missing hiker Monday morning after the search was halted late Sunday because of cold and dangerous conditions.
The man fell 80 and 100 feet to his death from a cliff ledge in Snow Canyon State Park north of Santa Clara, KSTU-TV reported. He was among a group of three hikers who became stranded on a hazardous climb.
Authorities rescued the two other men Sunday, Washington County Sheriff-elect Cory Pulsipher told The Spectrum of St. George.
Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.