Flash floods and resulting massive mudslide caused by heavy rainfall that hit California's Mojave region on October 15, 2015, engulfed around 200 vehicles, including 115 passenger cars, 75 tractor trailers and 2 buses carrying tourists, on Highway 58 (Interstate 5), east of the Tehachapi Mountains near Mojave.
Video Credit : Edward Czajka
With mudslides rising as high as 6 meters (20 feet), drivers were forced to leave their vehicles and take cover. According to CHP Officer Steve Carapia, rescue teams checked mud up to a depth of 1.8 meters (6 feet) to find any submerged vehicles. "They were probing to make sure there was no vehicles underneath the mud and, hopefully, no casualties," Carapia said.
Image source: Imgur
Rescue teams worked overnight to rescue hundreds of drivers and passengers, many of whom had been stuck for over 10 hours. The heavy rainfall and mudslides also damaged at least a dozen homes in the area and residents were promptly rescued and shifted to nearby shelters.
Tractor trailer driver Jared Patterson who chose to stay with his vehicle overnight said that the highway was inundated with mudslides within a minute as traffic stopped following the heavy rainfall. "It was a like a big river just smashed on through. ... Cars started floating around," Patterson said. "First thing I did was pray. 'God help me, please.' I was watching the cars float around just hoping nobody would get hurt. It’s pretty scary.”
Vehicles stuck in mudslides on Highway 58. Image source: Imgur
Image source: Imgur
The flooding and the mudslides soon led to the closure of Highway 58 from Towerline Road to exit 165 in Mojave, the Kern County Sheriff's Office said. That stretch of roadway is nearly 72 km (45 miles) long.
CHP Officer Steve Carapia requested drivers to ensure that their vehicles were prepared to travel safely in storm like conditions and also requested them to keep their mobile phone batteries charged fully in case of emergencies.
On Saturday afternoon (October 17), both the northbound and southbound portions of the Interstate 5 highway were reopened after street sweepers scoured mud from the road, the California Department of Transportation said on Twitter. However, as per CalTrans latest Twitter update, Highway 58 remains closed.
Update: SR 58 remains closed. 33 vehicles & 13 trucks still to be removed. pic.twitter.com/kfaYF5Dwhf— Caltrans District 9 (@Caltrans9) October 18, 2015
Video Credit: Travel Freak
Video Credit: PSB Satellite
By Monday, October 19, all remaining vehicle stuck on Highway 58 have been cleared.
Featured image source: Imgur