Crews cleaning up several mudslides in local burn scar area

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Caltrans crews worked into the night to clear roadways after the rain caused some debris to fall along the Ferguson Fire burn scar area.

A pre-emptive closure of Highway 140 proved critical, as a flash flood watch remained in effect for the area. Caltrans officials said they hope to reopen Highway 140 on Friday at noon but they want to make sure it's completely safe before they let drivers through the area.

A contractor told Action News they had five to six large mudslides to clean up on Thursday.

There was a rush of traffic flowing in and out of the Merced River Canyon and workers were putting themselves in harm's way to protect others down the road.

Periods of intense rain caused mud and debris to slip down the hillside where the Ferguson Fire burned - swallowing a road sign.

Major highways leading to Yosemite National Park remained closed as more rain could trigger mudslides along the Ferguson Fire burn scar.

"We had three or four locations where mud and rocks fell off the slope and inundated the road. We have an emergency contract in place and emergency crews to remove that material off the road," said Warren Alford of Caltrans District 10.

The storm prompted new closures as El Portal road into Yosemite Valley closed for a few hours because of debris falling onto the road.

It's possible it could close again if there's rock-falls or flooding.

"It's an hour-by-hour situation. Luckily no one's been hurt and we don't have major debris, rocks, or trees on any of the roads," said Yosemite National Park ranger Scott Gediman.

The burn scars weren't just a concern in the Merced River Canyon.

By Fishcamp, where the Railroad fire came dangerously close to threatening Sugar Pine Railroad and Narrow Gauge Inn, mudslides are still a concern two years later.

CALtrans said dangers will persist in Mariposa for a long time as well.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) said any time you are traveling in the Sierras, you need to take your time, especially when there is a storm. In the last 24 hours. There has been 1.5 inches of rain in Mariposa.

Several different departments like the CHP and Cal Fire are working with Caltrans.

Firefighters said hundreds of fire volunteers are ready to respond.

"All of them are aware of the storm, we sent out notifications to department personnel that we have road closures and we have specific needs so they are available as they can be," said John Morgan of Cal Fire.

Caltrans said they're working with the California Highway Patrol and the National Weather Service to pinpoint areas most prone to mudslides.

That way, they can have crews close by and ready to respond.

Crews are going to remain in the area, even after the storm passes to clear any flooding or debris.

While they plan to reopen the road on Friday, that could change if there are issues with equipment availability or weather.

This is the first time the road closures worked in favor of local businesses.

Tourists who were turned away at the roadblock caught a quick meal to eat at Happy Burger Diner.

"At least this time we are getting more coming in whereas for the Ferguson Fire we didn't have any business at all, so that's been nice," said Leann Redding, the restaurant's manager.
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