Earthquakes, storms force closure of one of California's most popular roads

Mattole Road has been shut down "for weeks or more," officials say.
Mattole Road has been shut down "for weeks or more," officials say. Photo credit California State Parks North Coast Redwoods

The earthquakes that have rocked California in recent weeks have resulted in the closure of one of the state's most often-used roads.

Mattole Road, which cuts through the heart of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, has been shut down "for weeks or more" after an earthquake-caused landslide caused the pavement to buckle, authorities say.

The park released new photos of the buckled road on Wednesday and warned people to stay away.

"The impacted area is roughly 90 acres, and has made the road impassable to vehicles. The road will remain closed until a rebuilding effort can be completed," the park said.

The closure is located 1.5 miles west of the juncture with Highway 101. The road was closed on January 17 due to ground subsidence from saturated soils over the past month's heavy storms, and the shifting soils have led to buckling of the road surface, park officials said.

"There is a large piece of land... more or less an entire hillside, that goes up to the ridgeline that is moving downslope, and so the road transverses across that hill slope and is moving with it," Marnin Robbins, program manager with California State Parks, told SFGate.

The most recent earthquake occurred Wednesday about 3.7 miles south of Malibu Beach, according to the National Weather Service. The 4.2 magnitude tremblor was followed by three aftershocks. No injuries or significant damage was reported.

A month earlier, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck a few miles off the coast of Ferndale in Northern California. It was followed by more than 20 aftershocks. Significant damage was reported across Humboldt County. The shakes were strong enough to crack roads, damage a bridge and even knock some buildings off their foundations. Two people were killed and 17 others were injured.

A day later, on Dec. 21, a 3.1 magnitude earthquake shook the East Bay. Then on Jan. 1, a magnitude 5.4 earthquake struck near Rio Dell, just miles from Humboldt Redwoods State Park, SFGate reported.

While Robbins couldn't definitively say whether the recent earthquakes were a contributing factor in damaging Mattole Road, he told SFGate that it's "conceivable" the seismic activity played a role.

There is no current estimate for when the road will reopen. However, geologists and engineers are expected to assess the road when it is safe to do so and will decide on the next steps.

Featured Image Photo Credit: California State Parks North Coast Redwoods