Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 @ 11:51 a.m. / Fire, Traffic

Caltrans: Rain May Force 199 Closure Through Burn Area Sunday and Monday

Caltrans crews remove hazardous trees in an area of U.S. 199 impacted by the Kelly Fire. | Photo courtesy of Caltrans District 1

Weather forecasters have issued a flood watch and Caltrans is asking Del Norte residents to avoid U.S. 199 on Sunday and Monday due to a bout of moderate to heavy rain.

An early season atmospheric river is expected to bring 2 to 3 inches of rain to Humboldt and Del Norte counties, which could result in rock slides and debris fall on roads in local burn areas, the National Weather Service reported Friday.

Caltrans maintenance staff will be monitoring areas impacted by the Smith River Complex wildfires, District 1 spokesman Manny Machado said.

“U.S. 199 is planned to be open this weekend to one-way controlled traffic,” he told the Wild Rivers Outpost in an email Friday. “But we may need to close due to the storm and possible rockfall and debris slides.”

Caltrans has been escorting motorists from the Grassy Flat Campground east of Gasquet to Oregon Mountain Road on U.S. 199 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and from 4 p.m.-8 a.m. Monday through Friday. The road is open to one-way traffic control on weekends.

This schedule allows crews to remove hazardous trees, repair and replace damaged guardrails and stabilize the slope impacted by the wildfires. Caltrans officials hope the schedule will allow crews to finish these repairs before the rainy season starts.

Meanwhile, firefighters under the command of California Interagency Incident Management Team 4 continue their work. While northwest winds allowed for a more aggressive air attack on Thursday, they pushed the fire toward the Bear Basin Lookout, according to a Friday update.

Previous burns in the area along with water-dropping helicopters slowed the fire’s advance.

Northwest winds are expected to shift westerly by Friday afternoon with valley temperatures ranging from 69 to 76 degrees and ridge top temperatures ranging from 62 to 69 degrees.

The fire is currently at 94,168 acres and is 79 percent contained. In Oregon, the fire is mapped at 12,460 acres.

For more information about road conditions in California, click here.


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