Mountain Ranch Road Crumbles Due to Broken Culvert

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MOUNTAIN RANCH --

A main thoroughfare in Calaveras County is closed after a portion of the roadway crumbled from beneath.

Maintenance crews noticed Saturday that Mountain Ranch Road was sinking and closed it off immediately.

Experts believe at least five times more rocks and sludge have gone through the galvanized pipe in recent months because of the Butte Fire burn scar.

"Fifty years of wear and tear, the rocks, sand, gravel that wore on this thing, it just wore out the bottom of the pipe, and there is a void. When the ground settles on that, the void ovals, and it kind of just sunk down," said Scott Anderson, roads superintendent of Calaveras County.

This is yet another setback for Mountain Ranch residents. The road is a major thoroughfare for the Butte Fire recovery effort.

"This is just another hit to their daily effort. They've been through a lot and it's just unfortunate," Anderson said.

The silver lining is that crews shut down the road before it could cause any further damage.

"The heavy trucks could have fractured the road and it could have been my mom, your mom somebody's grandmother, some kid driving to high school that got caught in it," Anderson said.

Stephen Wilcox lost his mountaintop home in the Butte Fire and now lives in a trailer at the bottom of the hill.

Just steps from his front door, he woke up to a rush of water.

"It was kind of an eyeopener in the morning," Wilcox said.

There is now a hard closure on Mountain Ranch Road and there is a five mile detour set up on Michel Road.

Ashley Jones was waiting at the bus stop to pick up her children after school. Luckily, her home survived the Butte Fire. But the culvert that broke was right in front of her home. So this road closure is causing extra travel time and a lot of grief.

"It's getting more and more congested. The gravel on the side is getting washed away, and the whole road is muddy, and it's only a one lane road, so it's a pain in the butt," Jones said.

Crews had to dam up the creek upstream to divert the water away from the culvert. They will pump out the remaining water underground, and put in a new pipe -- a process that will take at least another two days.

"It's just one of those things you have to deal with and take it one step at a time and move forward," Wilcox said.

Weather permitting, crews should be finished with the Mountain Ranch Road repairs by Wednesday.