Hwy. 17 reopens after mudslides prompt traffic nightmare

Highway 17 is open again this morning in both directions.

Just after midnight, Caltrans crews were able to finish clearing up a 50-foot mudslide on the  road near Los Gatos.

The problem started very early yesterday.

Crews were racing to clean up the significant mudslide on Highway 17 near Los Gatos blocking one lane of the highway on Wednesday. It snarled the evening commute for hours. At one point, both lanes of the two-lane highway were shut down bringing traffic to a standstill.  

It  was nothing but gridlock on southbound Highway 17 heading into the Santa Cruz Mountains. The traffic was backed up for miles to the Interstate 280 interchange in San Jose.

“it’s been the worst ever, probably the worst since the 1989 quake,” said Zach Sohns of Los Gatos.

SkyFox captured Caltrans cleaning up an estimated 50-foot mudslide, fresh from Tuesday’s rain.

“This was probably one of the bigger mudslides we had,” said Officer Rajeev Negi of CHP San Jose. “It's been awhile since we had one this big.”
The right lane of the highway south of the Cat’s Restaurant in Los Gatos closed. At times,  CHP shut down both southbound lanes.

"Periodically we've been stopping traffic both lanes so Caltrans can sweep up the number one lane as well,” said Officer Negi.

The mudslide made what's normally a rough commute even worse.

"We are coming from Mountain View from NASA and it's taking us two hours to get from East Los Gatos,” said Debbie Graves of Mountain View.

Los Gatos received a lot of rainfall, filling up the Lexington and Vasona Reservoirs, spilling over their spillways and into the Los Gatos Creek Trail and Vasona County Park. Much of the park is underwater.

“There are no prior experiences in the recent history that I’ve been informed where this has happened due to weather,” said Denise Clay, superintendent of the Union School District.

At Alta Vista Elementary School in Los Gatos, the lights are back on. The storm knocked out power and heat for most of the day. Students bundled up as the school used natural light.

“My commute has been about three hours every day since the storms,” said Sandrine LeGrand of San Jose.

On Highway 17, drivers took the long wait in stride looking on the bright side.

“I have no choice, “ said LeGrand. “I have to go to work. Patience and dealing with it.”

"It could be worse,” said Graves. “It could be raining right now and it's not.”