Mudslide in Santa Cruz Mountains leads to overnight traffic impacts

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Saturated soil across the South Bay is the product and problem of recent strong winter storms to hit the Bay Area.

On Wednesday, soaked soil led to a massive mudslide on the southbound lanes of Highway 17 at Sugarloaf Road.

The slide happened around 1:30 p.m., and forced quickly forced the closure of both southbound lanes. Caltrans crews told ABC7 News, the right lane would remain closed overnight.


"The threat is going to continue as long as we continue to receive rain," San Jose State University (SJSU) Professor, Laura Sullivan-Green said. "The soil does not have an opportunity to dry out."

Sullivan-Green is an Associate Professor and the Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at SJSU.

She explained winter storms come with the high probability of slides and other serious wet weather hazards, like toppling trees. Hazards that can be especially common along mountainous roads.

"These trees are damaged from years of drought conditions, and then you have them in saturated soil that is continuously staying wet from continuing rain," she explained. "They're at risk of toppling."

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At the scene of Wednesday's mudslide, Caltrans crews said they identified trees that need to be removed before traffic flow can be restored.

The California Highway Patrol Santa Cruz was also on-scene, monitoring the mess.

"We never can anticipate it, we never know what's going to happen," CHP Officer Stephen Busath told ABC7 News. "We do know with heavy rainfall in the Santa Cruz Mountains, trees are going to come down. There are going to be some slides."

Down from the mountains, more problems are expected across the South Bay. The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch for the Guadalupe River area in San Jose.

Minor flooding is expected near the Alma Avenue Bridge, to the nearby Elks Lodge between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Thursday morning.

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