What Hwy 243 closure means for Idyllwild emergency evacuation

Hwy 243 could reopen in Spring 2020

How would the mountain communities evacuate in an emergency

IDYLLWILD, Calif. - There is no end in sight for the repairs on Highway 243, which remains closed more than six months after the road was washed out during record-breaking Valentine's Day flooding. 

Touring the damage with News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia, Terri Kasinga with CalTrans said the repairs have come a long way. 

"As opposed to what it was two months ago, it's a big change," Kasinga said. "They actually have the road built in, the lower slope is in."

Dozens of other damaged portions of road are still under repair – this time, being built to last.

"As far as the sustainability goes, that's our goal here. This community is getting a whole new infrastructure," Kasinga said.

Congressman Raul Ruiz toured the site as well, working to secure infrastructure funding toward the resilience of these roads. 

"They're building it safer and stronger and planning for 40 years of changing climate so that this doesn't happen again," Ruiz said.

But some residents are worried what for most is a daily inconvenience could become a major safety concern in the event of an emergency evacuation. 

"There's only one way out," said Mark Simonian, an Idyllwild resident. 

Idyllwild Fire Chief Mark Lamont said fuels have been drastically reduced along the open portion of Highway 243 and Highway 74, which allows crews to move people through those areas with less concern. 

And there are other routes available. 

"(Highway) 74 going down eastward into the Coachella Valley will still be open," Ruiz said. "There are two other roadways down the mountain, into Temecula and into Hemet are still open."

No timeline for the completion of the Highway 243 repairs is available, though CalTrans officials said they are floating a possible finish date of Spring 2020.


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