Several weeks ago, a Town Crier reader and Hill resident brought to our attention a particular large, gray, jagged rock hovering over Highway 243 near the location of the boulder fall at Dead Man’s Curve in January of this year. (See accompanying photo.)
His concern was that it looked as if it would not take much to bring that rock down — a heavy rain, a sharp earthquake, etc. There are various earthquake fault zones that run through or near the San Jacintos.
That very rock is depicted in a short video Caltrans has posted on YouTube under the title “Caltrans District 8 Removes 18 Foot Boulder from State Route 243 in Riverside County,” narrated by Caltrans District 8 Public Information Officer Philip Havins. The video shows various quick shots of the January boulder fall, including a brief shot of a Caltrans worker with a long steel rod seeming to work at dislodging the very rock about which our reader was concerned.
Granite weighs roughly 165 pounds per cubic foot, which works out to 4,455 pounds — well more than 2.2 tons — per cubic yard.
Terri Kasinga, Caltrans chief of public and media affairs, stated Caltrans was aware of that rock, but Caltrans geologists indicate it is more solidly positioned than may appear. However, she did say, when the weather warmed in late spring or early summer, Caltrans would be sending a crew with special equipment to remove that rock and perhaps others from that location. Kasinga stated that this would not be a small task, seeming to indicate that we could experience some traffic interruptions while that work was being done.
Kasinga told the Town Crier that Caltrans geologists specially train their work crews to look for and identify problem areas, at which time geologists can conduct an assessment. She related that Caltrans conducts geotechnical assessments of potential rock fall areas on an as-needed basis.
In the previously mentioned video, Brian Hinman of Caltrans Office of Geotechnical Design, South, relates that rock falls are a natural consequence of rocks weathering over time. He states that Caltrans has an active slope management plan and an active rock slope scaling program that take “rock fall protection measures designed, not to stop the rock fall, but to keep the rock from impacting a car.”
Says Havins, “Caltrans works every day to keep the roadways safe and clear for the motoring public.”