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Caltrans busy clearing rockslides as storm system continues

Caltrans District 5

Caltrans is trying to take advantage of the break in the storm after the recent rains led to several rock and mudslides, causing delays and road closures throughout the Central Coast.

Caltrans crews were chipping away at the hillsides of Highway 101 through the Gaviota area Tuesday morning, dislodging rocks before the next storm arrives.

During Monday's storm, rockslides in the area prompted the northbound lanes to close for two hours.

“The storm has exposed some areas," said Kevin Drabinski with Caltrans District 5. "So, we want to make sure that the debris is loosened and doesn’t come down onto moving traffic.”

Drabinski said rock scaling crews were busy, spending hours scaling the cliffside for potential issues.

“The idea is to knock down as many rocks as you can that might be loose so that they come loose in the storm,” Drabinski said.

Drabinski said rock scaling isn't a job for the faint of heart.

“It looks like you’re repelling down the side of a mountain," Drabinski said. "Only that mountain has instability and you’re loosening rocks.”

Drabinski says Caltrans crews have spent months preparing for this winter, but he says with the topography on some of the hillsides, they just can’t foresee every possible problem.

“We have geologically active mountains in our district," Drabinski said. "We study every inch of the highway to be able to identify known locations, and then Mother Nature often presents us with new scenarios and new locations.”

Caltrans crews will be working around the clock throughout the area clearing rocks, trees and debris from roadways. But with more storms on the way, the potential for additional road closures looms.

Drabinski encourages travelers to download the Caltrans Quickmap app if they plan on hitting the highways.

“It gives you real-time roadway information," Drabinski said. "So as soon as we change the parameters of a closure, or reopen a roadway, it gets updated on the app right away.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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