Mini-slide closes highway | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Mini-slide closes highway

Sally J. Taylor

Residents and business owners in the U.S. Highway 50 corridor let out a collective sigh of relief Tuesday afternoon when news of a mudslide that closed the highway appeared to be relatively minor.

Around 1:30 p.m., an estimated 100 cubic yards of mud and rocks slid onto the highway a quarter-mile west of the abandoned Whitehall building.

Though only four feet of the westbound lane was blocked, California Department of Transportation at 2:30 p.m. closed the highway in both directions to get in heavy equipment. They expected to have the highway cleared and reopen by midnight or earlier, according to Caltrans spokeswoman Pat Miller.

Doug Veerkamp of Placerville was contracted to clear the highway, including dragging down lose debris from above the road. The project was expected to fill about 10 to 15 truck-loads.

“When it’s finished, there shouldn’t be anything left to slide,” Norm Butts, the Caltrans supervisor for the area, said from the site of the slide.

“There was a pocket of material of rock and dirt that loosened up,” he said.

Tuesday’s slide constituted a minor incident compared to the Jan. 24, 1997 Mill Creek Slide that buried the highway just a mile farther east. That slide closed the highway for 28 days while 300,000 cubic yards of debris were removed and repairs made.

Since the Mill Creek Slide, several potential slide areas in a five-mile stretch of the canyon have been monitored with electronic equipment. A close eye is kept on the entire stretch.

Caltrans Maintenance Supervisor Donna Maxler first noticed rocks on the pavement Tuesday morning and provided an early warning of the slide.

That slide area was not monitored electronically though neighboring slopes were.

“Caltrans didn’t put any monitors there because we didn’t feel a slide would go that high up (to be major problem),” Miller said.

A project being designed to further stabilize that slope will probably not be necessary following Tuesday’s repairs, she said.

Duane Wallace, the executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce who keeps a close watch on the highway, said such small slides are unavoidable.

“(Caltrans Geologists) told us to expect these types of normal slides.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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