OMG, the Hill ate Highway 101 last year and Southern Humboldt almost came to a stop. The road was completely closed for days and still is a maze of orange cones and signs. Intrepid local photographer, Kim Sallaway, was climbing the slide within hours and gave us a legacy of incredible shots and a sense of his personal bravery.  For months now we have watched as contractors manipulated masses of soil and restored the road.

An amazing change has taken place.

Kim Sallaway, who also took these recent photos says, “The picture [above] shows the view from the first shelf the workers created. There are two of them. They will form a “foot” for the land above to slump into should it move downhill. The hillside is spanned by rolls of burlap staked into place, to help stop downhill travel of small dirt and rocks. The surface is being sprayed with straw and grass seed, fired from a cannon pulled behind a truck. This is a dirty job. I itch when I lay down in straw. I can’t imagine how irritating the chaff from this would be.”

Kim says that “At road level, the situation seems quite dealt with. A climb up the hillside shows plenty of work has taken place to stabilize the hillside. However, this is a huge slide and it has not rained substantially since the repairs began. I retraced the climb I made during the first hours of the slide. The situation above the road is hopeful.”  However, he and others have worried—Will the hill eat the road again once it starts raining?

Kim thinks, “Above the carefully arranged new slope sits a very large area of unstable land. Acres of loose trees, roots, and dirt, are precariously perched where they all stopped moving as the slide was contained and subsequently rearranged by the crews of workers.”  Below are two photos that show “the mess that could easily slip out again.”

I asked Caltrans to respond to Sallaway’s (and others) concerns. Scott Burger, spokesperson for Caltrans replied with a quote from Senior Engineering Geologist, Charlie Narwold, (Below is a photo of Narwold also taken by Sallaway last spring.)  Narwold said, “The recently constructed earthen buttress and drainage facilities are designed to stabilize the lower portion of the landslide directly impacting the highway.  Future landslide activity above the recent repair is not anticipated to have a direct impact on the highway.  We are monitoring the performance of the earthen buttress and hill slope above utilizing instrumentation (sensors) and surveys.”

May the land and the road stay where they are.

UPDATE: Depending on the weather, of course, the job is projected to be complete by this Friday, November 18th.


Thanks once again to Kim Sallaway—his photos are our windows into this area.