MARKLEEVILLE – A stretch of Highway 89 in Alpine County remains closed because of severe flooding in areas burned last summer by the Tamarack Fire, and a timeline for the highway to reopen is "premature."
On Thursday, Caltrans crews worked along Highway 89 to clear out culverts that were blocked by debris from nearby areas burned in the fire. A culvert is a tunnel that carries a stream or water under a road or railway. In some cases, like near Markleeville, a culvert acts as a bridge for traffic to pass over it.
When these culverts are blocked by debris, mostly rocks, water cannot pass through and the flow of water becomes restricted which leads to it sitting underneath the road. When this happens, like along Highway 89, the road is washed out and unsafe to drive over.
Wednesday night, a CBS13 crew was able to cross over the bridge and into Markleeville. By Thursday morning, engineers reviewed the same bridge and deemed it unsafe for travel. Caltrans equipment was stranded on either side of the bridge, and the crews had to wait for the proper repairs to safely cross.
In the meantime, other Caltrans crews worked to clear culverts along the highway. Using a Vac-Con truck, Caltrans crews released more than 2,000 PSI through a hose and into the culvert. Like a Roto-Rooter, crews are able to release the debris in the culvert to allow water to run through.
Time was of the essence on Thursday, as more rain and a flash flood warning was in place for Markleeville, and the work done throughout the day to cleanup was at risk of being lost.
"Any work that Caltrans does up to this point, I guess there is a possibility if the weather is severe enough to put us back to square one," sad Bob Highfill, the public information officer for Caltrans, District 10.
Highfill added a timeline for the work to be done, or Highway 89 to reopen, is "premature." The stretch of road closed is around 3 miles long and runs from Turtle Rock County Park through to the city of Markleeville.
Ultimately, the work to repair damaged or blocked culverts has been in process since after the Tamarack Fire. Highfill said work to remove hazard trees and repair culverts was already underway as part of an emergency director's order. This work was interrupted by the current storms.
For the latest conditions, Caltrans tracks closures online.
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