The mammoth mudslide that mauled Highway 58 last month buried the freeway under more mud than previously thought and cost Caltrans nearly $2.4 million, an official said this week.
The Oct. 15 mudslide closed nearly two miles of Highway 58 in both directions between Highway 202 and Mojave and captured 115 vehicles, 73 semi trucks and two tour buses.
No one died in the slide, which delivered anywhere from two to 12 feet of mud and took nearly a week to dig out.
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“When the sun came up the next day, even I was amazed. It looked like an apocalypse,” said Batchelder, whose district covers Kern County’s eastern half.
Caltrans sent 52 employees to unearth the roadway and, in an unusual step, hired Bakersfield-based Granite Construction to help. Granite sent equipment and 27 workers.
“Until you’re on the ground you can’t get the scope of what’s required in an event like this,” says Brent Green, District 9 director. “This is the single biggest event in District 9 for the last 15 years. And that includes eastern Kern County and all the way up the eastern Sierras.”
The Highway 58 slide was previously thought to have unleashed 75,000 cubic yards of earth, but the state transportation agency’s new measurement is about 85,000 cubic yards.
Depending on its exact composition and water saturation, that much earth likely would have weighed at least 170 million pounds.
In a news release, Caltrans called the mudslide a “1,000-year storm event,” which spokeswoman Florene Trainor clarified means a similar event has a 1 in 1,000 chance of happening in any given year.
Another mudslide also buried Interstate 5 the same day on the Grapevine, but wasn’t quite as expensive. It cost Caltrans $639,000 to clear I-5.
To minimize future occurrences during what’s likely to be an El Niño winter, Trainor said Caltrans workers have been scaling local mountains to remove loose rock, and making sure future rains can be diverted off highways.
“We are definitely taking extra precautions to dig ditches to where water can run down in a natural course to culverts,” Trainor said. “Our holding ponds have been cleaned out and all the culverts have been cleaned.”
Theo Douglas: firstname.lastname@example.org