OMG, The Hill Ate the Road–Photos from the Highway 101 Slide

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Caltrans District One Hydraulics Engineer, Major Damage Coordinator, Sebastian Cohen, says Monday morning Highway 101 should be open to 1 lane each way to the public and they hope to be able to allow emergency traffic through sooner.

In the photo above, Caltrans, contractors and CHP struggle to contain the damage wrought by nature as a massive slide North of Garberville (near the information sign for the Avenue of the Giants) rumples asphalt like piecrust.  Kim Sallaway, a well known local photographer (see his gallery of Reggae on the  River images here) set out to tell the story.  He calls this the biggest slide he’s ever seen in this area…ever!  “The area near the top is liquid.”

The photos and Sallaway’s stories below.

OMG, the hill ate the road.

This is Caltrans Senior Engineering geologist, Charlie Narwold  who according to Sallaway has been shooting lines to determine slope and width etc.  Sallaway relayed that the slope is 22 degrees vertical and over 600 ft across as well as a good 1/4 mile long.

Note the broken power lines.  PG&E says they only temporarily lost power to one customer but it has since been restored.

There you can see the power line connectors but not the pole.

The asphalt on the south side teepeed making little pup tents.  Sallaway took this photo before starting up the slide.

By the time he made it back down, the pup tents became an entire encampment of boy scouts lined up across all four lanes.

From near the top the slide stretches down towards the river.

The geologist and another person peer back across the entire slide in the above photo.

Four foot deep cracks shatter the slide.

As Sallaway made his way to the top, he called me from the ledge in the lower left of the above photo, panting from the exertion. “Whoa,” his voice changed in the middle of a sentence.  “A tree,” he began and then panting said, “the earth is moving under me.”  More heavy breaths, some thumps, then saying only to me, “I think I need two hands for this, goodbye,” he hung up. Later, he described the experience. He explained that the large double root ball tree pictured in the lower right had begun collapsing and the land he was standing on slid down the hill.  He had run, jumping from solid spot to solid spot.   The tree, he said, as he ran “snapped and popped and laid down next to me.”

Here you can see the sloppy look of the slide.  The river, Sallaway believes,  if the slide makes it that far, could act like a straw– sucking away the soil at the “toe” of the slide and carrying tons of earth across the already destroyed roadbed.

From near the top he called me again calling the climb “one of the hardest things he’d ever done. The climb was vertical.  The land was “spongy, soft, and slippery.”  At one point to cut down on weight, he put down his camera bag with lenses about 15 feet from a drop off and draped a bright sweatshirt near it to make it easier to find.  He noted a tree near it and began to work his way up the steep slide.  Later he returned or tried to return.  The tree landmark was gone.  Eventually, after a 15 minute search, he found his expensive equipment only 3 feet from the drop off and the tree laying on its side.

As he moved from spot to spot the ground hummed with noises.  The land was terraced with cracks.

The north side of the side buckled,too. “Every single thing I stepped on here [in the picture above] moved.  It wouldn’t hold weight. ”

Below is the slide from the north side.

The two pink lines matched at 11:12 am by an hour later the road had moved this much.

Here is one of our local officers amazed at the power of the slide.

South of the slide, ripples of asphalt roll down the road.

Once again a photo from the top.  If the slide keeps moving, this could very well be on the freeway in a day or two.

And as a final note here is a photo of Dyerville Loop Rd by Sara Champie.  It is only open to south bound traffic in order to minimize the chance of accidents. She adds, “It is pretty muddy up there, and can get windy/sharp turns.”

UPDATE:  There are some great aerial photos of the slide on KMUD’s flicker here.

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68 comments

  • Wow Kimba risked life and camera for these shots. Special thanks to him and to you for a great story.

  • This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • Kim S. descriptions of his trek up the still moving mountain, made me get very nervous!
    Wow! I don’t know……but you sure got some “sic’ pics! 🙂

  • Kim S. descriptions of his trek up the still moving mountain, made me get very nervous!
    Wow! I don’t know……but you sure got some “sic’ pics! 🙂

  • What about the fiber optic line?

  • What about the fiber optic line?

  • Amazing photos, thank you so much! Maybe we could auction off some of these pieces of highway like the Berlin wall?

  • Amazing photos, thank you so much! Maybe we could auction off some of these pieces of highway like the Berlin wall?

  • wow. there is never a dull moment north of the border.

  • wow. there is never a dull moment north of the border.

  • Kimba lives to serve, too!

  • Kimba lives to serve, too!

  • Was this hillside covered with trees in the past that held it in place?

    So glad everyone in the state will be funding fixing the road, just like hwy 1 down here in Monterey. What if we didn’t all chip in to help each other. Would the folks north of the slide, or within a 50 or 100 mile radius be charged?

    Great photo’s,! book marking this site!

  • Was this hillside covered with trees in the past that held it in place?

    So glad everyone in the state will be funding fixing the road, just like hwy 1 down here in Monterey. What if we didn’t all chip in to help each other. Would the folks north of the slide, or within a 50 or 100 mile radius be charged?

    Great photo’s,! book marking this site!

  • These photos are amazing! Still, Kim must be crazy. Thanks for posting.

  • These photos are amazing! Still, Kim must be crazy. Thanks for posting.

  • When I came over the dyerville road I found it like it is always, if the road is fine normally, then how the hell can they justify telling you you cant drive the road just cause of elevated traffic, It is a ROAD ,. they are used for two way traffic all year. All the sudden the counties ugly little secret is out, they dont keep our roads up to proper condition for two dirrectional traffic, if the road cant handle it then shut it down permanantly or fix it. I find that the danger of a head on is always there, FIX OUR ALTERNATES HUMBOLDT! we need them. and next time there is a problem maybe we wont turn into nazi germany and tell locals they cant dirve home on a perfectly good road that meets qualification to drive any other day. If its a guarantee of safety one want in this world you must buy insurance, and to do that you need a drivers licence., o wait at that point you might actually know the rules of the road and the danger will be negated and we could all travel the same road. Our local athorities have resorted to treating us all like idiots and we let them. The ghestapo, CHP make the rules as they go.

    • Hey, I bet you’re the kind of person who screams about high taxes at the same time as you scream about not getting enough of the services you THINK you are entitled too from the government. Well, guess what, you got one of your wishes. Taxes are at a 60 year low. But guess what comes with that? This. This is just one of the delightful things that comes with low, low taxes. Crappy roads. Congrats.

      • Taxes are at 59%-what are you talking about? Too much t.v. and newspapers.

        • You are paying 59%? Wow. That sucks. You should probably have your tax man investigated. My personal federal income tax rate was about 8%, and I have a low income, I could have really used that money, but I also realize I need good roads, sooooo….
          Across the nation, taxes are currently at a 60-year low. That means lowest they’ve been in 60 years. Here’s a link to a USAToday story about that:
          http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2010-05-10-taxes_N.htm

  • When I came over the dyerville road I found it like it is always, if the road is fine normally, then how the hell can they justify telling you you cant drive the road just cause of elevated traffic, It is a ROAD ,. they are used for two way traffic all year. All the sudden the counties ugly little secret is out, they dont keep our roads up to proper condition for two dirrectional traffic, if the road cant handle it then shut it down permanantly or fix it. I find that the danger of a head on is always there, FIX OUR ALTERNATES HUMBOLDT! we need them. and next time there is a problem maybe we wont turn into nazi germany and tell locals they cant dirve home on a perfectly good road that meets qualification to drive any other day. If its a guarantee of safety one want in this world you must buy insurance, and to do that you need a drivers licence., o wait at that point you might actually know the rules of the road and the danger will be negated and we could all travel the same road. Our local athorities have resorted to treating us all like idiots and we let them. The ghestapo, CHP make the rules as they go.

    • Hey, I bet you’re the kind of person who screams about high taxes at the same time as you scream about not getting enough of the services you THINK you are entitled too from the government. Well, guess what, you got one of your wishes. Taxes are at a 60 year low. But guess what comes with that? This. This is just one of the delightful things that comes with low, low taxes. Crappy roads. Congrats.

      • Taxes are at 59%-what are you talking about? Too much t.v. and newspapers.

        • You are paying 59%? Wow. That sucks. You should probably have your tax man investigated. My personal federal income tax rate was about 8%, and I have a low income, I could have really used that money, but I also realize I need good roads, sooooo….
          Across the nation, taxes are currently at a 60-year low. That means lowest they’ve been in 60 years. Here’s a link to a USAToday story about that:
          http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/2010-05-10-taxes_N.htm

  • Too much logging and especially grazing for way too long made this land barren and slide prone! Yet again we see the consequences for everyone in Humboldt because a land owner didn’t care and wasn’t required to protect the health of their soils… And sure even with a healthy mature forest on these slopes the slide may of not been entirely prevented, but it could of been significantly minimized! So next time you hear a logger or rancher complain about environmentalists remind ’em how many millions of dollars in county commerce were lost to this preventable mishap!

    • Deane,
      What I see in these photos is meadow and bay trees. Bay trees are an indicator of below the surface water. Water makes the ground move. There have been slide issues in that area since the original road was put in there. The photos don’t show that the grass is cropped short with eroded gulleys such as too many cattle would likely cause. In addition, over grazing tends to cause small local slides not deep earth shifts such as shown in the photos. Now logging can and does cause these kind of issues but I see no evidence of logging roads or logged over land nor to the best of my memory has the land been logged in the 51 years since I’ve been alive.In addition, this is not an isolated issue; these massive slides have been happening all over Humboldt not just on ranch lands in the wake of the massive storms that dumped tremendous amounts of water on the Southern Humboldt landscape.

  • Too much logging and especially grazing for way too long made this land barren and slide prone! Yet again we see the consequences for everyone in Humboldt because a land owner didn’t care and wasn’t required to protect the health of their soils… And sure even with a healthy mature forest on these slopes the slide may of not been entirely prevented, but it could of been significantly minimized! So next time you hear a logger or rancher complain about environmentalists remind ’em how many millions of dollars in county commerce were lost to this preventable mishap!

    • Deane,
      What I see in these photos is meadow and bay trees. Bay trees are an indicator of below the surface water. Water makes the ground move. There have been slide issues in that area since the original road was put in there. The photos don’t show that the grass is cropped short with eroded gulleys such as too many cattle would likely cause. In addition, over grazing tends to cause small local slides not deep earth shifts such as shown in the photos. Now logging can and does cause these kind of issues but I see no evidence of logging roads or logged over land nor to the best of my memory has the land been logged in the 51 years since I’ve been alive.In addition, this is not an isolated issue; these massive slides have been happening all over Humboldt not just on ranch lands in the wake of the massive storms that dumped tremendous amounts of water on the Southern Humboldt landscape.

  • What a great bunch of photos. We travel the stretch of 101 every year to just past the Humboldt county line to our Family Camp (Richardson Grove RV Park & Campground). It never fails to amaze me the changes that happen during the storms we just had. I live in Willits and didn’t believe my husband when he told me about the slide. I’m sharing this with him now!!!

  • What a great bunch of photos. We travel the stretch of 101 every year to just past the Humboldt county line to our Family Camp (Richardson Grove RV Park & Campground). It never fails to amaze me the changes that happen during the storms we just had. I live in Willits and didn’t believe my husband when he told me about the slide. I’m sharing this with him now!!!

  • What time did this happen? This is not far from the 3.5 EQ, 8 mi WSW of Rio Dell at 10 pm PDT 3/30 last night. Hmmmmmm

  • What time did this happen? This is not far from the 3.5 EQ, 8 mi WSW of Rio Dell at 10 pm PDT 3/30 last night. Hmmmmmm

  • Hey Kym! I know times are tough but what do you think about a beer and snack fund set up for the Marty and the Road Crew Gang at the Liquor Store? I’ll throw a $20 down for that:) Who is with me? Somebody call Dave!

    • I’m in. Should I make a paper airplane and toss the money across?

      • If you are serious about thinking this is a worthy cause then just say so and I will be on the phone with Dave:) If folks really want to contribute to feeding and praising the various road crew efforts with food and libations then by all means ” Let’s Git Her Done ” as that redneck comedian likes to say. I will gladly facilitate this effort:)

  • Hey Kym! I know times are tough but what do you think about a beer and snack fund set up for the Marty and the Road Crew Gang at the Liquor Store? I’ll throw a $20 down for that:) Who is with me? Somebody call Dave!

    • I’m in. Should I make a paper airplane and toss the money across?

      • If you are serious about thinking this is a worthy cause then just say so and I will be on the phone with Dave:) If folks really want to contribute to feeding and praising the various road crew efforts with food and libations then by all means ” Let’s Git Her Done ” as that redneck comedian likes to say. I will gladly facilitate this effort:)

  • While it’s totally true that clear-cutting and road building exacerbate already unstable hillsides, the geology in Humboldt is naturally covered with deep seated slides like this. This goes to show that if it’s forested, it would be best to keep it that way.

    There are many big slides in this county that no one hears much about because they don’t take out the highway or bury houses. Two that immediately come to mind are the one on Van Schoik mountain in the Mattole and one on the lost coast a little south of Petrolia not far from Sea Lion Rock. Last I saw it there was a big flat chunk of land that had slid part way down it with a small patch of mature Douglas Firs standing up perfectly straight. I wonder if thats in the ocean now.

    This also brings to mind many slides originating from old logging roads in the Mattole.

    Landslides happen without the help of humans, but human damage to the land has increased their frequency.

  • While it’s totally true that clear-cutting and road building exacerbate already unstable hillsides, the geology in Humboldt is naturally covered with deep seated slides like this. This goes to show that if it’s forested, it would be best to keep it that way.

    There are many big slides in this county that no one hears much about because they don’t take out the highway or bury houses. Two that immediately come to mind are the one on Van Schoik mountain in the Mattole and one on the lost coast a little south of Petrolia not far from Sea Lion Rock. Last I saw it there was a big flat chunk of land that had slid part way down it with a small patch of mature Douglas Firs standing up perfectly straight. I wonder if thats in the ocean now.

    This also brings to mind many slides originating from old logging roads in the Mattole.

    Landslides happen without the help of humans, but human damage to the land has increased their frequency.

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  • As Lori Dengler was quoted today, sedimentary “rock pudding”. The Blue Goo is ocean sediment, and was under the ocean not “too” long ago.

  • As Lori Dengler was quoted today, sedimentary “rock pudding”. The Blue Goo is ocean sediment, and was under the ocean not “too” long ago.

  • Slides happen.The ground gets to wet, tree roots arent that big, ya some may have been helped but some just happen. Anyone travel over hwy 20 by blue lakes that whole hill you travel over is a slide. It was treed why did it slide? Maybe it rained to much!

  • Slides happen.The ground gets to wet, tree roots arent that big, ya some may have been helped but some just happen. Anyone travel over hwy 20 by blue lakes that whole hill you travel over is a slide. It was treed why did it slide? Maybe it rained to much!

  • Awesome photos!

  • Awesome photos!

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  • My professor hooked me up with this website n I’ve been lovin it since so many good post and replys Im from so Hum live in eureka now and though this site I feel more connected to my home so thank you

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