Highway 50 opens after slide
KYBURZ – A large rock and mud slide east of here forced the closure of Highway 50 for much of Monday, paralyzing a main route between the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe.
Construction crews opened one of the four lanes at about 6 p.m. Monday evening, according to Caltrans. Tons of dirt, trees, rocks and debris caked the highway following the late Sunday night slide. No one was injured and no property damage was reported. The slide happened at about 11:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Throughout Monday, motorists were turned around at Sly Park and Meyers, leaving Interstate 80 as the primary east-west route between Lake Tahoe and the Sacramento and San Francisco areas.
A geologist was studying the stability of the hillside, said California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Gartner. It could take several days to reopen the entire highway if there is danger the slope could slide again, he said.
The slide was about 120 feet long and 10 to 20 feet high, said Mark Dinger, public information officer for Caltrans. Placerville contractor Doug Veercamp was hired by Caltrans to remove the debris, which fills between 500 to 700 cubic yards, Dinger said. An average dump truck can haul about 8 cubic yards at a time.
“We are fortunate the slide happened when it did,” Dinger said.
Veercamp told the Tahoe Daily Tribune on Monday that his plans of cutting a swath from the slide to allow for limited traffic, enough for a single lane to go through. Dinger said Caltrans would post signs warning of controlled traffic through the one lane.
Caltrans geologists are at the slide area to determine if any more earth movement will happen.
A preliminary review shows the culprit may be an underground spring that loosened the soil. Forest fires have burned in the area in years past, making the highway prone to slides. However, Sunday’s slide was not in an area known for slides.
“This is not an area where we’ve had historic slide activity,” Dinger said.
The slide is located east of Kyburz, several miles from the 1997 Mill Creek slide, which closed Highway 50 for nearly a month.
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