Rescuers search for missing skiers; storm closes Interstate 5

Rescuers were searching Monday for two skiers that went missing near Lake Tahoe during a winter storm that dumped fresh snow in the Sierra Nevada and closed a 40-mile stretch of highway north of Los Angeles.

Patrick Frost, 35, and Christopher Gerwig, 32, both of San Francisco, were last seen Saturday morning at the Alpine Meadows ski resort just west of Lake Tahoe.

Efforts to rescue the two men, described as expert skiers, were suspended Sunday night and resumed again around 7:30 a.m. Monday, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Department.

“I would say if they sought shelter, and they're not wet and not caught in an avalanche zone, then their chances are good,” Placer County sheriff's Sgt. John Giovannini said.

The Grapevine section of Interstate 5, which passes through the mountains about 65 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, was closed shortly after midnight because snow and ice made the road treacherous, officials said.

Northbound traffic resumed at daybreak for a test, with California Highway Patrol escorts, but ice and snow kept the lanes from being fully reopened.

The storm dumped between one and two feet of snow around Lake Tahoe and up to three feet in the mountains before moving toward Southern California and Arizona, said Mark Deutschendorf, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Reno, Nev.

Yosemite National Park saw up to 10 inches snow. Plows were unable to keep up and two out of three main roads intothe park were closed Sunday afternoon.

In Southern California, officials planned to begin clearing a rock slide that blocked Mt. Wilson road in the Angeles National Forest. Hugh boulders crashed onto the roadway northeast of Los Angeles on Sunday.

Also in Southern California, 53-year-old Ellen Coleman of Riverside was reported missing Sunday, possibly on the east face of Mount San Jacinto. Coleman took a tramway to about the 8,500-foot level on the mountain and had planned to hike to the 10,800-foot summit, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said.

About 20 miles east of where the woman was hiking, two Marine Corps sergeants were rescued Sunday after slipping several hundred yards from an ice-encrusted trail below the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Around dawn, crews helped Marine Sgt. Lance Chatagier, 26, outof the treacherous ice and cliffs where had fallen Saturday evening. Volunteers stayed all day with Marine Sgt. Lucas Ellison, 26, who fell into a more perilous spot below the frozen, unmaintained trail. Rescuers using crampons, ice axes and ropes eventually carried him up to the tramway's upper station.

Chatagier and Ellison, both of Twentynine Palms, used a cell phone to call for help after they lost their footing about 7 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.

— Associated Press writers Martin Griffith in Reno, Nev., Brian Melley in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., Jason Dearen and Terence Chea in San Francisco and Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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