Scotts Valley residents build own road around rockslide

March 22, 2011 11:50:38 PM PDT
Homeowners in the Santa Cruz Mountains are still cut off from civilization after a big rock slide and with more rain coming it could take a while longer. About 50 people are trapped on the wrong side of the large mess.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a meeting took place between residents and the county and the word was not encouraging. Officials increased the number of homes trapped behind the rock slide to 33. The county does not know when work will begin to get rid of the slide and suggested some residents may want to move away for a while.

In the rough country around Scotts Valley, residents usually site hiking, nature and seclusion as three of the top benefits of where they live. Only four homes are without power.

The county public works department looked at the slide on Tuesday more analytically.

"What we're talking about is fractured sandstone. It's very saturated and the way it came down, it was almost like an avalanche," said Public Works Director John Presleigh.

It has caused a complete blockage of Nelson Road that has cut off residents, or some 30 homes, from any easy access to the rest of the civilized world.

"It's amazing. One day everything's fine and you've got everything at your fingertips and then the next day, you have to try to figure out how to get basic essentials," said resident David Simmons.

Knowing that the enormous pile of rocks fell within 30 yards of their homes made it tough for some of the residents in Scotts Valley to sleep last night.

"I kept hearing rocks falling, but it was my imagination. So it's unnerving - make no doubt about it," said resident Tom Walsh.

Nancy Tasker's home is on the wrong side of this slide. She came out to see the aftermath on Tuesday morning for the first time.

"It's pretty stunning. How long is it going to take? Yesterday I wasn't feeling trapped, now I am a little fearful. I got to process all this," said Tasker.

Sheriff's deputies are checking on the residents to make sure they have everything they need. They haven't ordered an evacuation and no one is choosing to leave. Instead, they're focusing on the positive.

"It could be worse. We do have power PG&E did a great job getting power restored quickly. So that makes a major difference," said Walsh.

For now, hiking on a soggy trail around a creek has become the only way to bring people or supplies in or out. The area they have to go through is a small area unofficially called Eclectia.

Resident Dan Norman and 13 others remain philosophical. He said, "No houses were destroyed, no people were injured or killed, no pets were hurt, no livestock was hurt."

Resident Teri Davis said, "Just look at Japan. They've had an earthquake and tsunami and radiation. What would you rather have?"

Residents pulled out the chain saws and loaders and began creating a road big enough for people to drive on and it could eventually be a new road if the county approves. The county figures it will take at least two weeks' worth of work before they can clear the main road above and more rain will come, so it may take two weeks before work can even start.

"At worst case, this is a nice firebreak for the summer," said Simmons.

"It's going to take some time to clear that slide, it's a large slide, it's a big problem, so the first priority will be to get an alternate road in," said Santa Cruz County Sheriffs Dep. Chief Don Bradley.

That temporary road will link Nelson Road to the road residents built Tuesday, which was in use right away.

"I thought I was going to have to walk over the rock pile, so this was really nice," said resident Lisa Daniels.

However, there is still no real way in for an ambulance or fire truck to get through and a handful of people are still without power.

"That's the primary concern right now is emergency access, but this a hearty group that is very self-sufficient," said Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mark Stone.

They're also grateful no one was hurt in the slide and no homes were damaged.

On Wednesday the county will bring a geologist out to take another look at the slide. They want to map out where the problem zones are and find out how stable it is. Indications right now tell that the slide is not stable and the county can't begin work until it is stable. With three more rainstorms coming, stability will take a while.


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