VIDEO: Storm aftermath causes nasty commute on Highway 17 in Santa Cruz Mountains


SANTA CLARA COUNTY (KRON) — Power and road crews are mopping up after stormy weather in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

There are a few trees down and PG&E reported some relatively minor power outages, one impacting about 400 customers near Felton.

But the rain lingered and made for an especially nasty day for commuters on mountain Highway 17

Tuesday only added to Highway 17’s reputation as one of the Bay Area’s most notorious commutes.

It’s been drizzling and misting all day, and more than a few drivers found out the hard way that the pavement is wet and extremely slick.

In a stretch of Highway 17 known as “The Hill,” over the course of about 3 hours, KRON4 saw nine vehicles, some of them already en route to the body shop that had been involved in accidents.

“They go too fast,” Tow Truck Driver Mike Durand said. “They hit the wall, and they crash.”

In one of the more serious accidents, Christiano Silva escaped injury despite having rolled his pickup near Redwood Estates.

“It was raining, and I lost control and then I hit the wall and went over,” said Christiano Silva, who crashed his truck on Highway 17.

On Monday, in far heavier rain, there were actually fewer wrecks.

Lighter rain might have found some drivers picking up the pace, but the pavement is still very slick and not just because of the rain, said a very busy California Highway Patrol Officer Taylor Griffith.

“We have long periods without rain, and during that time, oil and transmission fluid and antifreeze leaks from vehicles and soaks into the pavement, and when it rains, that stuff is released and makes the surface extremely slippery,” Officer Griffith said.

Several drivers spun out and hit the guardrail after passing through an especially slippery spot in the southbound lanes just south of The Summit.

One of them is experienced commuter Dan Casciato.

“All of a sudden, my car started turning sideways as if it was on ice or something,” Casciato said. “I tried to correct, but I just kept sliding, and eventually, I hit the guardrail.”

The accidents led in turn to several long backups, including one when Officer Griffith ran a traffic break to check out a slippery spot south of the notorious Big Moody Curve, where the debris field on the shoulder is evidence of a well-deserved reputation.

That was one of three accidents there on Tuesday.

Sometimes those slippery spots are the result of debris or sand and mud washing onto the road in heavy rain.

There are lots of hazards to watch out for.

Officer Griffith says the slower you’re going, the more likely you are to see them.



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