SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS (CBS SF) – Caltrans officials on Wednesday said part of Highway 17 may be partially shut down for several days as crews work to contain a massive mudslide that is still moving.

Several mudslides have hit in the same area in recent weeks. CHP allowed KPIX cameras just a few feet away from the monster mudslide that shutdown northbound lanes. The mudslide is located just north of Vine Hill Road and Jarvis Road.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a single lane was open in both directions on the highway.

Caltrans said the clean-up and containment effort is likely to continue until Thursday afternoon.

“This is definitely close to one of those act of God type of slide areas,” explained Caltrans engineer Devin Porr.

The mudslide that came barreling down onto Highway 17 Tuesday was the third slide in the last several weeks.

“This is the biggest mudslide I’ve ever been involved with and have seen on this highway,” said Porr.

In addition to cleaning up the muddy mess, Caltrans crews have to figure out how to stabilize the saturated earth even as the next storm system promises more heavy rain.

Porr says it is no easy task.

“You’d be like a kid on a beach digging a hole where sand just keeps caving in on it,” Porr said. “Only problem is, the sand that would cave in here are some boulders the size of VW Bugs.”

The mudslide tumbled down just one month after it crushed a television station live truck.

On Tuesday, it sent an SUV airborne, flipping the vehicle on its roof

The driver was not injured, but the slide has left the northbound lanes of Highway 17 near Vine Hill Road closed for over 24 hours.

Southbound lanes reopened to traffic Tuesday evening.

CHP was warning drivers that northbound lanes could be shutdown up to three days.

“My understanding is that the rain is supposed to be worse tomorrow,” said CHP Sgt. Troy Vincent. “We’re supposed to get a little bit of a break today but the ground is already saturated, which means more stuff could come falling down.”

Caltrans says even if they had put a catch system for mudslides in the problem area prior to this week’s storms, it may not have done any good.

“The amount of material in this slide was unprecedented,” said Porr.

Caltrans officials said they are stretched so thin because of all the mudslides across the county that they’re bringing in contractors to help. As for permanent solutions for the area so future mudslides don’t happen, officials say they can’t put one in place until the rain stops.

In fact, Caltrans thinks they may need to wait until the spring to put in a permanent system to prevent future mudslides.


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