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California

Cleanup of mudslide-stricken Highway 58 continues

Mudslides on Highway 58

Workers remove a stranded tractor-trailer carrying live bees on Highway 58 near Tehachapi on Saturday.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Cleanup crews continued to clear a shuttered section of Highway 58 east of Tehachapi that was ravaged by mudflows after an intense rainstorm drenched the Antelope Valley last week, stranding hundreds of drivers and passengers.

Currently, one big rig and about half a dozen cars remain in the mud and debris covering an approximately two-mile stretch from Exit 165 to Cameron Road, said Florene Trainor, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation. Loaders and excavators are digging up the dirt covering the highway and carting it away to two different sites, she said.

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Nearly 200 vehicles, including about three dozen tractor-trailers, were trapped by mudflows that reached five and six feet high in Thursday’s storm. Most of the trapped vehicles, including two big rigs carrying bees, have been cleared away. No fatalities have been reported.

The vehicles that remain in the area will be drivable once the mud is scraped off, Trainor said. Highway 58 remains closed in the eight miles between State Route 14 and State Route 202.

The big rig and cars should be cleared away by tomorrow, if not tonight, said Darlena Dotson, spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol’s Mojave station. 

The storm that led to the mudflows was called a 1,000-year event by meteorologists. Dotson said she hadn’t seen damaging flows of this magnitude in the years that she had been working for the CHP or living in the area.

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Geologists have surveyed the surrounding mountains to make sure the soils on those slopes are stable.

“We were worried about of the instability of [the soils] if there was another rainstorm, and it looks like it’s good,” Trainor said.

The highway will not be reopened until later this week, possibly Thursday.

“We’re not going to reopen the highway until we have it safe for the traveling public,” Trainor said.

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