KYBURZ (CBS13) — It’s a common, yet relatively unknown winter practice for Caltrans crews.
Earlier this week, a boulder blocking traffic on Highway 50 was detonated near Kyburz.
Caltrans blasting crews are on call 24-7 this time of the year. With one storm after another making rocks more susceptible to sliding, they’re bracing for one of the busiest seasons they’ve seen in years.
“What we used on the rock the other day is called a Kinestik,” said Bill Netto with the Caltrans blasting team. “They’re a third of a pound sticks that you mix with a liquid and it makes them an explosive.”
Rocks crashing onto roadways happens more often than you might think. Just before Christmas, a truck was crushed by a rock on Highway 50, barely missing the driver. A week earlier, an 800-pound boulder fell on Interstate 80 near the Nevada state line.
“We’re ready,” Netto said. “We’re always ready. That’s what we train for, that’s what we do.”
The precision of his five-man team, along with timing and strategy for each detonation, operates like a well-oiled pit crew. Three years of training are required before getting a license to drill, place, and safely manage all of the equipment and explosives.
The explosives are packed in a giant metal box and hauled out to the incident site. After detonation, a loader is brought in to haul away the smaller chunks of rock.
Time may be in short supply to move the rocks as Mother Nature threatens to bring more wild weather to the mountains.
“We’re pretty much ready for whatever comes our way,” he said.