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California Mudslides Trap Truckers and Other Motorists

California Mudslides Trap Truckers and Other Motorists

Torrential rains in California this past Thursday pounded parts of California, dumping enough rain to cause a mudslide and force motorists to flee. Almost 200 vehicles, 75 of them being big rigs, were trapped on both California 58 east and on I-5 on the Grapevine. In places, 20 feet of mud and debris flowed across the highway during afternoon rush hour traffic. The affected area was on Tehachapi Pass, with 115 vehicles engulfed in the mud.

A spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, Ray Pruitt, said drivers had to abandon their cars and other had to wait on rescue working to work their way through almost a mile of mud and debris before being rescued Friday morning. “I have never seen slides like this,” Pruitt said. Over 200 people spent the night in shelters, while a few others either chose to stay overnight in their vehicles or were forced to because workers could not get to them. It’s not expected to be a quick cleanup and will likely take days. “That’s going to be a long process,” he said. Pruitt advised drivers to steer clear of the affected areas.

Shannon Doyle, a truck driver in California, saw the damage first hand. The rain and hail force traffic to a slow crawl. What seemed to be a waterfall poured in from a canyon but was really flooding water pushing canyon mud into the highway, plunging over cars and stopping traffic. “It was just a mess,” Doyle said. “We couldn’t go anywhere. We couldn’t do anything. It was crazy.” On other parts of the highway, flood waters lifted vehicles and pushed the floating automobiles into one another.

Doyle spent the next 4-5 hours in his truck and then ventured out into the sea of mud. About midnight, search and rescue crews were on the scene and excavation started. When morning arrives, enough of the road had been cleared that trailers hauling livestock were able to get out. Doyle was able to get back on the road about 9 a.m. the next morning.

On Interstate 5, another major roadway for truckers, dozens of vehicles were swallowed up by several feet of mud and caused a major shutdown. Flash flooding and mudslides covered almost a 40 mile stretch of the Interstate. People were rescued from homes and submerged vehicles by helicopters and other rescue personnel. Miraculously, no one was hurt in the flood and mudslides.

Senators Dianne Feinsteins and Barbara Boxer petitioned the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Army Corps of Engineers for outlines preparations in the event of subsequent flooding or mudslides due to continuing rain. “Given four years of historic drought, a devastating fire season, and likelihood that a strong El Niño will bring heavy rains to California, the risk of flooding is dangerously high,” they wrote. “We are already seeing the potential for disaster.”

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