Courtesy Caltrans

The closures of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet and Highway 243 north to Banning have created burdens for Idyllwild residents. Local high school students and school personnel have shuttles to and from Hemet available, but these leave at 5 a.m.

Local businesses have multiple problems. First, much fewer visitors and tourists are coming to the Hill. Perhaps this will improve closer to and after Easter. But also, many employees live in Hemet, thus creating a commute at least twice as long as before the rains.

Last week, Caltrans said the closures could extend into June.

While residents can do little to hasten the road repairs, Caltrans understands the problem. 

Last week, its District 8 media office issued a press release advising the regional media, “Idyllwild and Mountain Center still open for business and how to get there.”

The press release began, “The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) would like to remind the public that restaurants, businesses, lodging, Airbnb’s and most other activities are available and open in Idyllwild and Mountain Center.”

It included a map showing how to get to Idyllwild.

On Twitter, Caltrans shared the following, “#Caltrans8 would like to remind travelers that Idyllwild is accessible via SR-79/SR-371 through Temecula or SR-74 through Palm Desert. Enjoy your trip!” The accompanying map also was included.

Also, Steve Perez, the ranger at the Idyllwild Nature Center, has scheduled a meeting for the local hospitality business at the Nature Center at 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28. 

      “We want to figure out everything we can do to work together,” he said and emphasized that the local tourism industry is vital and needs to collaborate. Visitors can be informed of the many local opportunities. This variety will encourage more, he said.

       Also, the Riverside County Emergency Management Department is working to identify uninsured and underinsured losses that may be eligible for various assistance programs. EMD is trying to obtain emergency loan funds from the Small Business Administration, and other potential federal or state assistance. The county estimates that total storm damages is approaching $50 million. 

      EMD has forms for both individuals and businesses that were uninsured or underinsured for damages caused by the Valentine’s Day torrential rain. 

EMD representatives were also at the MDP community meeting on road conditions.

Caltrans’ contractor is working seven days a week to repair the road damage, which includes “… complete road loss, culvert repair and replacement, wash outs, slip outs, sink holes, slope instability resulting in rock fall, mud and debris flows, and damaged pavement.”