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Highway 101 won't reopen until Monday as Caltrans continues clean up from mudslides




In this photo provided by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, U.S. Highway 101 at the Olive Mill Road overpass is flooded with runoff water from Montecito Creek in Montecito, Calif. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.
In this photo provided by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, U.S. Highway 101 at the Olive Mill Road overpass is flooded with runoff water from Montecito Creek in Montecito, Calif. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.
Mike Eliason/AP

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This week's rainstorm continues to wreak havoc in the Montecito area. Seventeen people have died and eight people are still missing. Dozens of homes have been destroyed and hundreds more have been damaged in Santa Barbara County.

The mud is waist high along a 13-mile stretch of Highway 101 between Ventura and Santa Barbara that's been closed since Tuesday. Officials with the California Department of Transportation say the earliest it will reopen is Monday.

That stretch of the 101 is among the only points of access to communities affected by the mudslides. With many local roads also impassable, residents are hard pressed to meet basic daily needs — like picking up prescriptions or getting groceries.

Susana Cruz is a public information officer with the California Department of Transportation. She joined Take Two's A Martinez to talk about the 101 cleanup.

Montecito Creek just north of East Valley Road (aka Route 192) overflowed its banks. The mud rose so high it left a mark five feet high on the white house on the creek's edge. The debris tore through that home's garage and some front rooms. Downstream, the same debris flow ruined several more nearby homes.
Montecito Creek just north of East Valley Road (aka Route 192) overflowed its banks. The mud rose so high it left a mark five feet high on the white house on the creek's edge. The debris tore through that home's garage and some front rooms. Downstream, the same debris flow ruined several more nearby homes.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

The condition of the closed roadway

Some areas have up to three feet of mud, so we don't know what damage there might be, what we might find under all that mud. We have several boulders that are up to eight feet in diameter. There's boulders, there's water tanks. There's other equipment and things in the way. 

Right now we're clearing the water, mud and debris, but it's still continuing to move so it's hampering the progress. There's still so many paths of water clogged down stream. It's not receding as we had hoped.

What roads CalTrans is working to clear right now

We have several roads closed on our state system, but our main focus right now is Highway 101, which is the main artery across California. So the closure limits are from State Route 150 in Ventura County to Milpas Street in Santa Barbara County.

A home is surrounded by mud and debris caused by a massive mudflow in Montecito, California, January 10, 2018.  
Search and rescue efforts intensified January 10 for hundreds of Montecito residents feared trapped in their homes after deadly walls of mud and debris roared down California hillsides stripped of vegetation by recent, ferocious wildfires. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A home is surrounded by mud and debris caused by a massive mudflow in Montecito, California, January 10, 2018. Search and rescue efforts intensified January 10 for hundreds of Montecito residents feared trapped in their homes after deadly walls of mud and debris roared down California hillsides stripped of vegetation by recent, ferocious wildfires. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Estimated time of reopening

We're hoping now for mid day on Monday. We have a lot of ground to uncover literally. 

How the mud gets cleared

We have help from other agencies including the California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire and the Office of Emergency Services, but we have our plows, our equipment, that has the capacity to sweep and clear depending on how sticky it is. Some of it is like Indian clay, and that requires more work.

This story has been updated.