Crews work to secure Hwy 17 following landslide near Scotts Valley

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- The coming storms have Caltrans crews scrambling to secure a hill in the Santa Cruz Mountains where a landslide came down eight days ago, destroying one of our ABC7 News vans and injuring one of our colleagues.

He's recovering as a fence goes up to keep other drivers safe if more rocks come crashing down on Highway 17.

RELATED: ABC7 News van wrecked by mudslide on Hwy 17 near Scotts Valley

One of the big risks drivers take on mountain roads is getting hit by debris from hillsides that overlook the road, loosened often by heavy rain storms. Caltrans is hoping that one day this fence installation project will make vehicles and their passengers a lot safer in the days ahead.

The 200-foot-long section of chain link fence going up isn't going to protect vehicles from another slide, but it is designed to hold back beach ball-sized rocks and boulders from crashing down on vehicles going northbound on Highway 17.

It was at this spot last week where an ABC7 News van was crushed by a massive slide shortly after 3 a.m.

The Santa Cruz Mountains received over 10 inches of rain and crews spent two days clearing the dirt and rocks that fell onto the road and removing loose soil and unstable trees on the slope.

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"The slope is stable at this time, just the soft stuff that got left behind we couldn't reach when we were cleaning up. This is a protective system against that. There is further assessment to check the stability of the slope and come up with a permanent solution down the road," Caltrans project engineer Devin Porr said.

The crews are racing against the clock with the next storm coming, but they're helped by the fact that these K-rails already were installed to keep the mud back, and they're designed to hold poles for the fence project they're working on.

The next series of storms could dump from 5 to 7 inches of rain in the Santa Cruz Mountains by Monday, according to our ABC7 News weather team.

Making Highway 17 safe for traffic has occupied most of Porr's time for the past year. He's also in charge of upgrading the center divider and improving drainage. But the hardest part for engineers is where the next slide will happen.

"That is their job to try and identify potential slides, but like this area, sometimes you wake up one morning and there's a bunch of dirt on the road, and you never really know," he said.

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