Rockslide blocks off Scotts Valley neighborhood

March 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A trickle of rocks has cut off a Santa Cruz County community and until that mess is cleared, dozens of people are stuck in their homes.

The rockslide is fallout from the wet weather that has been pounding the Bay Area and there is more to come. A 200-foot wall of trees, rocks and dirt came down across Nelson Road in Scotts Valley. No one was hurt.

Scotts Valley is surrounded by steep cliffs and crumbling rocks, so residents are accustomed to rock and mudslides, but this one was the biggest one they've seen in quite a while.

Residents along Lockhart Gulch Road say they noticed parts of the cliff breaking off Monday morning. Then, it all came down around 2 p.m. and resident Jackie Maurer was waiting with her iPhone.

"Anyone who was there was like, 'Oh, that's going down. And we kept thinking it was going down any minute," said Maurer.

The slide is about 200 to 300 hundred feet long and about 150 feet wide. It wiped out a power line and cut off about 25 homes from the main road. Residents can walk around it, but no vehicles are getting by. The Scotts Valley Fire District says the slide is still moving, ever so slightly.

Most of the cliffs are made of mudstone, which is a very unstable rock. In fact, you could still hear chunks of rock breaking off late Monday night. The slide came within 30 yards of some homes. It sealed off the entrance to Rick Paynovich's driveway.

"We always have small slides that happen every year, you know, two to six slides a year that we have to clean up to clear off the roadway so that we can get down, so it's not a big surprise," said Paynovich.

But this was the biggest one many people have seen in a while.

"The county seems to think it's going to take quite a while to clear this rubble. It's a massive slide. I've never seen anything like this in my life," said resident Sonia Wyman.

A geologist surveyed the slide and says the pile of rubble is still very unstable, which could make it difficult to clear the road. The geologist plans to visit the slide again on Tuesday to figure out how to move the massive pile of rocks, without triggering another slide.

The other concern is the next wave of storms which could loosen some things up and also cause some serious damage.

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