Mudslide cleanup to last several more days

Local residents examine the damage caused by a 2,000-cubic-yard

It may be another week or more before residents of Croy Road can
get access the outside world via the public road, as county staff
said the cleanup of a massive mudslide proves increasingly
It may be another week or more before residents of Croy Road can get access the outside world via the public road, as county staff said the cleanup of a massive mudslide proves increasingly difficult.

The Santa Clara County road department has exhausted every minute of daylight trying to clean up the slide which happened early Sunday morning, according to county roads and airports director Michael Murdter. He estimates the crews are about halfway finished with the cleanup process, and they hope to make at least one lane passable by Thursday night.

At least 2,000 cubic yards – or 200 truckloads – of mud, rocks, vegetation and other debris slid onto Croy Road, and county crews have so far removed about 100 truckloads, Murdter said.

The soonest the road could be cleared and stabilized is by the end of this week, though Murdter added the runny consistency of the material that spilled makes the process unpredictable. With the material falling from a steep uphill slope, when debris is moved from the road, the debris further up the hill falls down behind it.

“It’s just saturated soil,” Murdter said. “Some of the material that’s still uphill is being held up by the pile at the bottom. Eventually that will stop” – though road crews are not sure when.

“A limiting factor is the road is narrow, and it’s steep on the uphill and downhill side,” Murdter said.

The slide was likely the result of continuous rains that have drenched Morgan Hill and surrounding areas during the month of March, county staff said. Croy Road leads through a remote area of the hills of western Morgan Hill.

Croy Road resident Hugh McPhee said the mud that slid into the road is “like lava.” He thinks the county’s estimate of clearing the road by the end of this week is overly optimistic, and due to the volume and high water content of the debris that continues to fall onto the road it will likely not be clear and safe until the middle of next week, at the earliest.

The residents who are blocked into their neighborhoods by the slide, including some elderly residents of the Sveadal Swedish-American community, have been able to contact the county to obtain supplies. County crews brought in gasoline and water yesterday, via a fire break road that goes through private property around the slide, Murdter said.

Residents in need of more supplies, including food or medicine, may contact county firefighters or rangers at Uvas Canyon County Park – at the end of Croy Road – for assistance.

The fire break that goes around the slide is more like a “maze of roads” that is only passable with 4-wheel-drive vehicles, according to McPhee. Motorists should not attempt to traverse the rugged pass in passenger vehicles, he said.

Plus, it’s about an hour’s drive just to get to the other side of the slide, on the 6100 block of Croy Road.

Sheriff’s deputies and park rangers are on hand to guide residents through the alternate route, and to shuttle supplies in as they are needed, McPhee added.

“There are supplies at the park headquarters,” he said.

County staff estimate about 12 residents live behind the slide and are affected by the incident, though McPhee earlier this week said up to 100 residents are affected.

Many of the residents are running low on basic supplies, and will likely require water and gas or diesel to run generators. They have continued to check in on each other since the slide happened, McPhee said. Some, like McPhee and his wife Susan, have livestock and will likely be in need of more supplies as the week progresses.

All the homes behind the slide are without electricity, McPhee said, as the fallen trees took the power lines down. The McPhees are “off the grid” with solar power, batteries and diesel-powered generators, and other residents have access to generators.

“I’m out of beer, and I’m out of brandy,” but otherwise McPhee is well stocked with supplies, he laughed.

Calfire battalion chief Jim Crawford said county public health officials planned to visit the neighborhood today.

Fire and emergency medical services can access the properties behind the slide by helicopter in the event of a medical emergency, Crawford said.

He added that the residents in the rural area are largely self-sufficient. “They’re pretty good about taking care of themselves,” Crawford said.

About 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Calfire emergency dispatch received a medical call from a resident of the Sveadal community, and sent a Calstar helicopter in response. Medics were still performing CPR on the patient as of 4:40 p.m. Firefighters who responded by truck stopped in front of the slide on their way to the property. They were heard on the radio attempting to walk the patient across the slide to transport her to a hospital.

More details on the resident’s condition and the cause of the emergency are not yet available.

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