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Be careful out there

Posted: December 20, 2008 4:45 p.m.
Updated: December 21, 2008 4:55 a.m.
It was probably as close to a white Christmas as we'll get in the Santa Clarita Valley this year.

A winter storm swept into our fair valley last week, dumping rain, sleet and snow; shutting down two of our three routes in and out of the area; leading to two tragic deaths.

It was a reminder of several things:

* How tenuous is our hold on life. A helicopter mechanic stood by to watch his craft take off and, in a matter of moments, lost his life as the chopper crashed.

A motorist heading up an onramp to Highway 14 lost control of his vehicle on a patch of black ice. The Jeep Cherokee rolled, killing the driver.

* How dependent we are here in the SCV on our three traffic arteries.

It takes just one storm to shut down both the Interstate and the state highway that lead northward. Motels quickly fill as families are separated, travelers stranded, individuals' and entire groups' plans change because of the weather.

* How hard-working are our emergency personnel, for whom a winter storm means extra labor, extra aggravation and often extra grief from the very people they serve.

California Highway Patrol officers ran escorts through Tejon Pass until it became impossible to do so Wednesday, herding impatient and harried motorists through the snow - a task that must feel a bit like herding cats.

Spin-outs on slick highways kept CHP officers and Sheriff's Department deputies busy throughout the day Wednesday as drivers used to California-dry streets failed to compensate for the weather.

Shifted plates in a road-construction zone on Valencia Boulevard forced deputies and Santa Clarita Public Works employees to close lanes in the Valencia shopping district, even as out-of-town motorists loaded Valencia Boulevard trying to get from one closed-down freeway to another.

Traffic backups and not a few rude gestures resulted.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works snow plows rolled out on the streets well after dark Wednesday, orange lights flashing atop their rigs as they prepared to work through the frigid night so commuters could hit the road Thursday morning.

During this season of giving, we pause to give thanks to these emergency workers who labor so hard that we may take for granted our mobility.

To the CHP officer whose patience is tried by the impatient motorist speeding past your weaving traffic break; to the sheriff's deputy who must minister to the careless motorist whose vehicle winds up in a ditch; to the public-works employee whose safety barricades are ignored by motorists driving around them and promptly getting stuck in the snow - we hoist a mug of wassail.

To Santa Clarita Valley drivers, please be careful out there, be considerate of all around you and pay attention to those who are just doing their jobs on our roads.

And to emergency workers, may your holidays be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be green.


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