Transportation

Mudslides close Highway 50 to Sunday evening; I-80 open in both directions

Caltrans official explains the challenges faced in cleaning up Interstate 80

Caltrans Donner Pass Area Superintendent Dave Wood gives the latest update
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Caltrans Donner Pass Area Superintendent Dave Wood gives the latest update

Highway 50 is expected to reopen about Sunday evening as crews clear debris from two major mudslides, Caltrans officials reported Saturday afternoon.

Highway 50 is closed in both directions near Pollock Pines at Ice House Road, where the first mudslide occurred at 5:27 p.m. Friday, according to Caltrans.

Deanna Shoopman, a spokeswoman with Caltrans District 3, said the second mudslide near Kyburz at 12:48 p.m. Saturday was of equal size as the first one.

Shoopman said Caltrans officials anticipate opening Highway 50 to one-way control by 6 p.m. Sunday.

She stressed that the one-way control reopening might be set back further if there is another major mudslide along Highway 50.

“They were both two big mudslides,” Shoopman said. “These mudslides are bringing down bringing huge boulders, mud and trees … We’re working to reopen (Highway 50), but safety is our first priority. We want to make sure it is safe (for motorists).

Shoopman noted that there were no injuries reported in the mudslide near Kyburz, mainly because traffic access had been shut off to that area.

However, the traffic situation on Sunday could be a nightmare, with Sierra Nevada ski resort visitors attempting to make their way back down to the Central Valley.

Shoopman explained that when one-way control is instituted, the procedure will be a limit of 25 cars permitted to travel one direction on the single open lane, and then 25 cars traveling in the opposite direction will be permitted to go.

Meanwhile, westbound Interstate 80 reopened about 12:30 p.m. Saturday, allowing traffic to flow in both directions for the first time since a mudslide shut the freeway Friday morning.

In the Sacramento region, flooding along the Cosumnes River watershed spread to Highway 99, where some lanes remain closed, according to Caltrans.

The two major Sierra highway closures occurred Friday hours before weekend ski travelers typically drive to the snow from Sacramento and the Bay Area. Though weather is expected to be ideal this weekend in the mountains – mostly clear with light wind – the last round of warm storms caused havoc by melting snowpack and sending a deluge of water down hillsides.

Two lanes opened on eastbound Interstate 80 this morning, and traffic has been predictably slow up the mountain.

Kevin Yamamura: 916-326-5548, @kyamamura

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