Crews plow through snow to make emergency access road into Ponderosa ahead of storm

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Friday, January 13, 2023
Crews plow through snow to make emergency access road into Ponderosa
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Mountain communities in Tulare County are dealing with the aftermath of a series of powerful storms.

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Mountain communities in Tulare County are dealing with the aftermath of a series of powerful storms.

Efforts were underway on Thursday to create an emergency access road into Ponderosa ahead of another storm rolling in this weekend.

Monday's intense storms damaged a 10-mile stretch of Highway 190 between Camp Nelson and Ponderosa.

There are only two ways to get to Ponderosa, Highway 190 and the Western Divide Highway.

During winter, the Tulare County Management Agency blocks off the Western Divide Highway and allows it to be buried under a thick layer of snow, but plans changed this week.

"This is something we are doing above and beyond to make sure there is access for our residents of Ponderosa and other mountain communities," said Ross Miller, chief engineer with Tulare County Resource Management.

"We have been plowing this since Tuesday. Working to plow up from the hot springs side to Ponderosa."

"A lot of flooding really on this one. A lot of other places are getting rock falls. We didn't have that so much as we did flooding," added Christian Lukens with Caltrans.

"You'll see the edge of the roadway especially has been impacted, and those are just several that our crews have found that are just missing chunks of asphalt off the edge that have been washed away by the flooding."

Lukens says crews were able to clear out the flooding, but after surveying the damage, they felt closing the area for several weeks would be the safest option.

While Caltrans crews make those repairs, Tulare County crews will do their best to clear the road on the other side.

"We have an eyes out all weekend to make sure we are able to keep everything clear and make sure there is no issues and that we can restore access on Western Divide once this next storm passes," Miller said.

Crews are still working to clear one lane.

They will also be monitoring a lot of temporary work they've done throughout the county and will work on permanent repairs after this next storm.