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Route 66 in Mojave may reopen by late November October 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Highways, Preservation, Weather.
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Long sections of historic Route 66 that were closed in mid-September because of extensive flood damage may reopen by late November, reported The Press-Enterprise.

The newspaper had more details about the damage:

In some spots there are holes large enough to swallow one of the motorcycles belonging to tourist groups that regularly retrace the Western route.

Those travelers and others now have to detour off of Route 66 between Newberry Springs and Needles, taking I-40 instead. San Bernardino County officials estimate it will take $1.4 million to fix the damage. [...]

Brendon Biggs is deputy director of operations for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Works. He’s overseeing a workforce of 20 to 30 people making repairs to Route 66.

“Right now it’s high on the priority list,” Biggs said. “We want to get the road open.”
The flooding that hit the region was almost unprecedented, he said.

“We had multiple locations of severe damage,” he said. “We had approximately 40 bridges damaged in some way along with the road surface itself.”

The newspaper talked to several businesspeople in the desert who are suffering because travelers either can’t get to them or are deciding to bypass that area altogether on Interstate 40 between Needles, California, and Newberry Springs, California. That would include the small settlements of Essex, Amboy, Chambless, Cadiz, Goffs and Ludlow.

One Route 66 News reader recently took a few images of damaged roads and bridges in that area.

Biggs said even when Route 66 finally reopens, the county will have to eventually replace some bridges. He said the highway contains 127 timber bridges built in the 1930s, and replacing them will take longer because the improved structures will have to fit the road’s historic context. But when it finally happens, the road will wash out less often.

In the interim, many of those bridges will be limited to vehicles three tons or less in weight. That leaves out big RVs and tour buses — not an insignificant part of Route 66 tourism.

Amboy and its flagship business Roy’s still can be accessed from Interstate 40 through Kelbaker Road. You can check San Bernardino County’s progress in fixing the highway through this web page.

The part of the article that stings most is when the Press-Enterprise reporter talks to a clerk at the Desert Oasis gas station, just off Interstate 40 near Essex.

She said she recently had a conversation with a man from France who told her how much he and other Europeans revere the road.

“He said, ‘We don’t understand why you don’t take care of it,’” she said.

(Image of “Road Closed” sign by The Local People Photo Archive via Flickr)

Route 66 in Mojave may be closed for months October 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Highways, Towns, Weather.
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can't get there from here. 2014.

Severe seasonal flooding closed a section of old Route 66 between Essex and Ludlow in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, and it may be weeks or even months before it reopens, according to one news source in the area.

Zachnews, based in Needles, California, reports more than 40 bridges and some of the Route 66 roadbed between Goffs and Ludlow were damaged by raging floodwaters after monsoon rains about Sept. 7.

Most of the time, these desert roads are closed a few days until bulldozers move debris out of the way, which is why I didn’t think much about it when the closure occurred. But Tuesday, Zachnews made it clear the situation is much more than temporary:

Several residents of Needles, California who recently traveled from Twentynine Palms, California and Goffs, California tell ZachNews that portions of Route 66 still remain closed and had to use other roads to get around the closures.

The storm damage includes damage of the highway’s asphalt and some bridges have had their flow abutments washed out and are in need of new timber for support and flow alignment.

The hardest hit by the road closures because of storm damage to the Route 66 was reportedly is to Amboy, California which has been working hard to build up and bring in tourists over drive along the historic and world famous highway.

When repaired and reopened, portions of Route 66 from Ludlow, California to Amboy, California will have signs posted with a maximum vehicle weight of only 3-tons.

Personal vehicles will be allow to travel on Route 66, but will restricts Class C and larger Class A recreational vehicles and buses from driving on those marked portions of Route 66.

Zachnews also reported that according to the California Department of Transportation, Route 66 from Cadiz to Mountain Springs Road near Goffs is expected to stay closed for at least 2 months. Indeed, a bulletin from San Bernardino County says there is “no anticipated time for reopening,” which is unusual.

About the only good thing from this is the flooding occurred after the peak of tourism season. The Route 66 hamlet of Amboy, California, which is home to the much-photographed and visited Roy’s gas station and convenience store, remains accessible through Kelbaker Road from Interstate 40. Except for that one route, Amboy is essentially cut off.

(Image of a closed Route 66 east of Barstow, California, in Sept. 9 by eyetwist via Flickr)

Many brick buildings in California vulnerable to quakes August 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Weather.
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After a multitude of earthquakes in California during the 1970s and ’80s, we’ve long assumed the state’s old buildings are much less susceptible to damage because of new codes.

That’s not the case. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that thousands of brick buildings in the region remain unstrengthened against earthquakes, especially in poor municipalities such as the Route 66 town of San Bernardino. And the report specifically cited one Route 66 business there as vulnerable.

As many as 8,000 remaining brick buildings are at risk of collapse, according to the data published by the state in 2006. The number probably has not changed significantly since, commission Executive Director Richard McCarthy said. [...]

San Bernardino’s mandatory retrofitting law lasted only a short time before it was rescinded in 1999. Only 15 of about 130 brick structures have been retrofitted there. [...]

Molly’s Cafe in downtown San Bernardino is in an unreinforced building on historic Route 66. Restaurant owner Antonio Canul, 51, said the brick exterior is one of its draws, and he wouldn’t want to tinker with the building.

“Lots of people know it by the way it is,” Canul said. “I’m not going to fix something that’s not broke. I’m going to leave everything the way it is.”

Part of the problem is retrofitting a building is expensive, and many business owners cannot or will not pay for it. Also, San Bernardino is bankrupt and subsequently is unwilling to enforce costly building codes.

Fortunately for Los Angeles, almost all of its brick buildings have been retrofitted. However, the Times last year reported that 1,000 concrete buildings in L.A. alone remain vulnerable, including in its historic downtown — where the western endpoint of Route 66 originally was.

In case you were wondering, last week’s strong earthquake in California’s Napa region damaged buildings, but none collapsed — mostly because they were strengthened.

(Image of Molly’s Cafe by John Hagstrom via Flickr)

Severe storm damages Burger Hut in Needles August 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Weather.
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A severe storm that caused up to $5 million in damage to the Needles, California, included the historic Burger Hut restaurant along Route 66.

The Needles Daily Star had a roundup about the Aug. 12 storm, including the Burger Hut:

Ana Johnson, owner of The Burger Hut, said she was glad no one was hurt. She had finished with a customer when the storm struck about 4 p.m.

Repairs will take time, she said. The restaurant is insured but to evaluate the damage and possibly make repairs will take time.

There was significant damage to the plumbing and to the electrical system, she said. There is a piece of the roof missing and water damage inside.

Reopening will be a wait and see proposition, she said. It’s unknown what the cost is and she’s unsure of what will happen.

The Los Angeles Times also reported the closed Overland Inn motel also lost its roof during the storm. At least two cars were swept off the road by floodwaters and into the Colorado River. Fortunately, the motorists were rescued.

The Star reported 2.2 inches of rain fell during the storm, which is Noah-like proportions for such a desert town. Straight-line winds, estimated at 60 mph, also knocked over more than 50 power poles and damaged other businesses.

I was in Needles days after the storm. Most of the damage had been cleaned up, but a railroad underpass near downtown still contained several feet of water and remained closed to traffic.

The Burger Hut was built in 1957 by Lee McCary. It was renamed Irene’s Burger Hut, then Irene’s Drive-In, before reverting to its original name.

Fire destroys Tucumcari hotel July 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Motels, Weather.
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A Hampton Inn hotel in the Route 66 town of Tucumcari, New Mexico, was destroyed after fire swept through its roof and top floors Wednesday, reported the Quay County Sun and other news outlets.

Nearly 30 overnight guests were evacuated with no injuries, reported the newspaper, and were moved to nearby hotels. It’s believed a lightning strike on the roof of the hotel’s southwest corner caused the blaze.

Meanwhile, volunteers helped the hotel’s guests find clothes, shoes and phones to contact family members.

Owner Nitin Bhakta, who said the hotel was a total loss, said the hotel’s fire-alarm system failed, even though it had been tested recently. It’s likely, however, the lightning strike fried the system’s electronics.

We’ve long advocated for Route 66 tourists to stay in mom-and-pop motels. However, Hampton Inns about a decade ago helped with a few restoration projects on Route 66 and sponsored a Route 66 Caravan in 2002. So, if you want a chain hotel on the Mother Road, that’s one that merits a look.

As for Tucumcari, I suspect what’s Hampton Inn’s loss is several independent motel owners’ gain. The Blue Swallow Motel, Motel Safari and Historic Route 66 Motel all get high marks from travelers and will do nicely for Hampton Inn guests who had booked reservations. And the Roadrunner Lodge will open any day now.

Severe hail causes a white July in Flagstaff July 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Towns, Weather.
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A potent monsoon storm dumped heavy rains and hail on the east side of Flagstaff, Arizona, on Tuesday — causing residents to break out the snow shovels a few months early.

According to the Arizona Daily Sun, so much hail fell that one resident reported that lawns still were white from piled-up hail on Wednesday. One resident reported that hail fell for 15 straight minutes during the storm.

About 30 homes reportedly encountered flooding or damage from the storm.

The combination of water, mud and hail clogged culverts and other drainage holes, reported Anthony Sockyma.

The stream had a four foot wall of hail pellets piled up against his rear fence, which he shares with several neighbors. The flood water was two feet deep at their back doors.

“All of a sudden, the water came down the hill and it was a downpour for a while,” Sockyma said. “The water couldn’t go anywhere else, so it just started coming through (my yard).”

Then, the Flagstaff Fire Department arrived with squeegees. The agency said that hail reached three to four feet deep in area throughout the east side, blocking traffic and moving sludgy mud and debris. Sockyma worked with the crews to get his belongings above the water as it moved through his back door and out the front. He and many of his neighbors escaped with little property damage, even though water entered their homes.

The situation in Flagstaff sounds eerily like the severe hailstorm that struck Santa Rosa, New Mexico, also in July last year. But that storm damaged hundreds of homes or businesses and forced highway departments to break out their snowplows for hail that was several feet deep. Santa Rosa marked its first anniversary of the storm just days ago.

(Screen capture of an Arizona Daily Sun video after the hail storm)

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