NewsLocal News


Caltrans, CHP urge caution on Kern County's flooded, damaged roads

Flooding and damage have closed nearly every path between the Kern River Valley and the City of Bakersfield.
boulders across the 178
Posted at 7:36 PM, Mar 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-16 22:36:59-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Kern County roadways continue to be impacted by the recent rain and flooding. Both Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol say they're stretched thin trying to keep up with the road damages.

One of those incidents happened on Highway 178 heading into Kern Canyon, which is currently closed due to boulders falling from the sides of the canyon. According to officials, a demolition crew will need to come and remove the boulders before the road can be reopened.

Falling boulders is a very real danger along the 178 right now.

"I had come around a corner, and I had just, like, seconds before, showed up right after the SUV got smashed there with the rocks," said Onyx resident Oliver Gardner. He was driving down the 178 when he came across the scene of another car crushed by a falling boulder.

Oliver Gardner
Oliver Gardner

"I noticed the guy inside the Tahoe, he was climbing out of his car, and I was like, 'Okay, somebody's alive in there.' As I walked up, sure enough, it was the only guy that was in there" said Gardner. "What I noticed was a vehicle that a guy should not have gotten out of."

Gardner says he checked on the man in the car, who seemed to have incurred only minor injuries.

"He just climbed on out of his vehicle."

That's when Gardner started taking video.

car smashed by boulder on 178
The SUV Oliver Gardner saw on 178 had been hit so hard by a falling boulder that it punched the car right through the pavement. According to Gardner, the driver walked away with minor injuries.

The boulders that have fallen across the 178 were too large for Caltrans to move, and according to Christian Lukens with Caltrans, they are planning to have a demolition crew arrive on Friday.

"So we don't have an actual timeline for it yet. Typically as long as everything goes according to plan and there is not any more severe damage once the boulders are out of there, we could be looking at possibly late Friday for the roadway to reopen," said Lukens.

Meanwhile, Caltrans is also monitoring Highway 155, which took much more extensive damage from falling boulders.

"Without a solid timeline yet, it could be days, it could be weeks, but there has been substantial damage to the roadway in several areas between Glenville and Alta Sierra. It is going to need a lot of assessment at different locations," said Lukens.

Chris Lukens Caltrans
Christian Lukens, public information officer for Caltrans

Another canyon road CHP is advising drivers to avoid at this time is Caliente Bodfish Road. Although that road has not been officially closed, there are reports of flooding that make driving unsafe.

With two major highways out of commission, according to CHP Public Information Officer Tomas Martinez, there aren't many options for Kern River Valley residents to travel to Bakersfield.

"Unfortunately right now, the options are very limited. I think their only option right now is Highway 14," said Martinez.

Gardner commutes from Onyx to Visalia for work, and these closures are heavily affecting his travel time.

"An extra hour and a half drive to work, that's one way," said Gardner. "So my travels just as of yesterday, just to Visalia and back, was a 7 hour round trip."