KERN COUNTY - Highway 178 is still shut down by rock slides that happened during Monday's severe weather. Caltrans says the highway will be closed until at least Thursday.
Caltrans says crews are working as fast as they can to clean up the mess. There are actually three separate slides, parts of the hill that couldn't hang on in the heavy rain.
"When it gets saturated, it tends to come down and we just need to clear the roadway," said Officer Vaughn Cain, California Highway Patrol.
Caltrans crews started strategizing how to do that Tuesday morning. And, as the planners stand next to the slide, it is evident how big the problem is. It is fourteen feet deep in one area. The widest part is 100 feet.
"So, we have smaller rocks, a lot of gravel, a lot of rubble. They are not necessarily big rocks that would require blasting," said Jose Camarena, Caltrans.
It's all because of a strong and sudden storm before 6:00 Monday night. Some drivers had to turn around. Others were already too far in the canyon before they ran into trouble, like Jenna Speight.
"I hit a rock," said Speight. "The guy behind me was kind of pushing me back down the road and I couldn't stop, otherwise he would have rear-ended me and I hit a rock. So, now I don't know what to do," said Speight.
The California Highway Patrol helped those few drivers whose cars were damaged. But, no one was hurt.
The canyon will remain closed during the days of cleanup. The CHP recommends drivers take Highway 155 through Glennville and Alta Sierra as an alternate. While it's close to where the Shirley Fire is, the roadway remains open.
"Just anticipate some lengthy delays. It's already going to take twice as long to get up over the side of the hill. And, with the fire burning it could possibly add more time or you might just have to get turned around and pick another alternate route," said Cain.
Again, Thursday is the earliest Caltrans says they expect Highway 178 through the canyon to reopen. Caltrans says it does year-round clearing of rocks on the hillside to keep slides like these to a minimum.