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Mudslide Shuts Down Hwy 101 Through Humboldt County

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Highway 101 (CBS)

Highway 101 (CBS)

GARBERVILLE (CBS / AP) — A portion of the major artery connecting the Bay Area and Eureka was shut down Wednesday following a massive slide of mud and rocks, the California Highway Patrol said.

Officials estimated that the stretch of Highway 101 in southern Humboldt County could be closed for up to two weeks. Crews may be able to open the section to one-way, controlled traffic in two to three days.

Tons of debris tumbled and slid onto the highway about 5 miles north of Garberville around 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, causing the road to buckle under the weight, CHP Officer Len Johnson said.

“The whole mountain came down and just took the 101 out,” Johnson said, describing the large cracks in the road. “It looked like an earthquake.”

California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Julie East estimated the slide was about 600 feet wide and about 1,500 feet up the side of the slope.

Motorists traveling along the highway were being detoured onto lesser travelled local highways, a detour East described as a “very long detour.”

Southern Humboldt Unified School District officials decided to close three schools for the rest of the week over transportation and food delivery concerns, The Times-Standard of Eureka reported.

The closure comes as Humboldt County supervisors were set to declare an emergency to deal with $2 million in damage to county roads.

Two Bay Area cities, Hercules and San Pablo, also declared states of emergency this week as mudslides threatened homes in those communities.

To the south, crews worked throughout the day Wednesday trying to clear an eight-foot-high pile of mud, trees and debris that blocked a remote neighborhood in the Uvas Canyon area of Santa Clara County.

About 15 people were cut off by the slide, according to Michael Murdter, director of the county’s Office of Public Communication Roads and Airports Department.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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