Hwy 50 west of Tahoe reopens after massive mudslide | NevadaAppeal.com

Hwy 50 west of Tahoe reopens after massive mudslide

Jeff Munson
Nevada Appeal News Service

South Lake Tahoe – Wind and winter weather are likely to blame for a mudslide on Highway 50 near Riverton, Calif., early Wednesday morning that forced the closure of the artery that links South Lake Tahoe with the Sacramento Valley for about 15 hours.

Westbound traffic restricted to one lane began moving at around 5 p.m. Wednesday night while eastbound traffic to Tahoe, stopped at Pollock Pines, began moving at 6 p.m.

“The plan is to get traffic moving in both directions tonight,” spokeswoman Shelly Chernicki said Wednesday afternoon.

The mudslide was about 500 feet wide and about a foot deep. It was caused by an overflowing irrigation flume.

An El Dorado Irrigation District spokeswoman said that a 30-foot tree knocked down the flume, causing the ground to become unstable.

Spokeswoman Deanne Kloepfer said the sides of the flume are 6 feet tall, and a tree fell across the flume from the mountain side and broke through 2 feet on that side. When the tree hit the other side of the flume, it crashed through the 6-foot-tall side. Kloepfer said the water has been diverted upstream and no longer flows through the holes.

At the slide site, dirt hauler trucks from Doug Veerkamp Construction awaited bulldozers as they moved mud and dirt to a loading area.

“We have a whole bunch of debris that has washed out the road,” said Brian Syftestan, engineer for Caltrans. “We’ve hired a contractor to help clean it for us.”

Meanwhile, e-mail alerts from two Tahoe chambers of commerce embroiled in membership drives were sent out en masse alerting the business community of the situation. In an e-mail, Duane Wallace, who represents the South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, wrote about the potential liability and dollars lost to the business community when Highway 50 is closed, saying that losses for road closures can amount to $1 million per day to the South Shore economy.

– Charlotte Sanchez-Kosa, of the Mountain Democrat newspaper in Placerville, Calif., contributed to this story