Predicted rainfall this Sunday and Monday may delay the reopening of U.S. Highway 101 through Santa Barbara after a major mudslide blocked the road despite Caltrans District 5’s goal at reopening it next week. District 5 serves Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.
“We have 200 dump trucks, excavators and loaders, and 300 personnel on site working 12 hour shifts, 24 hours per day removing debris,” District 5 Public Information Officer Susana Cruz said.
The Jan. 9 mudslide claimed the lives of 20 people and destroyed approximately 65 homes, according to the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection. The mudslides came after heavy rain fell on hillsides burnt by the Thomas Fire, which burned 439 square miles in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
The mudslide caused a closure northbound from State Route 150 near Carpinteria to Milpas Street in Santa Barbara, as well as southbound from Milpas Street to Padaro Lane, according to Cruz.
Because of the closure, travelers may be forced to take alternative routes up and down the coast. Driving around Carrizo Plain — a detour many Cal Poly students must take to travel south — adds an extra 30 to 40 minutes depending on traffic.
“It definitely makes it a little difficult to get home,” animal science junior Juli Chun said. “I am taking the 101 to the 166 to the 5 down to [Los Angeles], so I’m basically going around the Carrizo Plain.”
Caltrans have been working on a one-quarter mile section of the highway to remove six to eight feet of water and mud at Olive Mill Road. Cruz also added that Caltrans have been removing approximately 9,000 cubic yards of debris each day.
Both Highway 192 and 33 should be avoided as they are closed near Santa Barbara. Highway 166 is the best option for students trying to travel to and from south of Santa Barbara.
A number of alternative methods of transportation have helped compensate for the roadblock. As of Jan. 11, the Pacific Surfliner train was reopened and the Condor Express is providing a ferry service from Santa Barbara to Ventura.
University spokesperson Matt Lazier said Cal Poly is working to help students that might be affected by the roadblocks.
“The university is prepared to provide support to affected students as needed,” Lazier said.