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January 21, 2022

Crews Work to Clear Landslides on Christmas Eve

Rich Ambris, 60, was ferrying packages around in the lead-up to Christmas but was forced to turn around when he got to 13203 E. Zayante Rd. because of a landslide covering both lanes.

“There’s no other way to get there,” he said, referring to the next stop on his route which was now unreachable. “I’ll probably have to call (the customer) and tell them.”

The volume of goods to deliver has increased this season, with the uptick in online shopping during the pandemic, according to Ambris, who lives in Felton.

“I go to Eagle Tree (Lane) every day,” he said around 11 a.m. “I came here yesterday and it was fine.”

He says last year the road was closed for a couple months.

“That all fell down,” Ambris said, motioning a curving stretch of road with a shiny new guardrail along the side.

And the smaller landslide by the creek further down E. Zayante Road—which was blocking an entire lane—hadn’t been as bad yesterday, he reported.

Ambris says he doesn’t believe the package that was going to an address on the other side of the debris slide was a Christmas present and could be picked up later at the depot.

“We make sure we’re getting everything out,” he said, adding he had about 50 or so more items to distribute throughout the day.

Live Oak resident Aleksandra Wolska was deep in the Zayante boonies for delivery purposes, too.

“I’m visiting a friend,” she said. “I was going to drop off a Christmas present for him.”

Their annual gift-exchange tradition was thrown into question by the gnarled branches and dirty ground that had taken over the rural thoroughfare.

“It’s like an earth dragon woke up, and it’s his paw grabbing at the road,” she mused. “I think it’s nature being nature and reacting to the conditions all around us—to erosion, to unstable ground.”

Today she wasn’t particularly frustrated in the sudden change in plans, although on another day she might react differently, she says.

“This might just be a perfectly innocent natural movement of the soil, but in the context of everything else, it looks like a warning,” she said. “The paths we want to take might not be available to us.”

She explained she was referring to the scientific reports of more severe weather patterns thanks to the increase in global carbon emissions.

“We might have to learn to walk differently,” she said. “—like, walk instead of using cars.”

She left with her mother, seeking higher elevation to find a cellular telephone signal to update her friend.

“We’re gonna meet each other across the mudslide,” she said.

Remi Rodriguez, a public works employee, drove up in his Santa Cruz County truck.

He said he’d already cleaned three landslides on a single road in the area, which had occurred overnight—plus there’d been others besides.

“We have a lot of slides everywhere,” he said.

Rodriguez described how he’d already completed a small debris removal job at this very spot the previous day.

“When I was cleaning this area I was afraid of the stump,” he said, referring to the large section of trunk now lodged smack-dab in the middle of the roadway. “I was afraid it would fall down on me.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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