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Another rockslide falls across Highway 140, closes lanes temporarily

For the second day in a row, rocks came tumbling down on Highway 140 leading into Yosemite National Park. Tuesday's rockslide was small in comparison with the incident the day before, authorities said.

Sgt. Ed Greene of the Mariposa office of the California Highway Patrol said both rockslides took place on Highway 140 at Bull Creek Road, near the South Fork bridge, in the Briceburg area. The Tuesday incident was reported about 2:13 p.m. and the softball- and football-sized debris was quickly removed by Caltrans workers.

Greene said eastbound lanes of Highway 140 were closed Monday between midafternoon and 9:30 p.m. as boulders 15 to 20 feet in diameter were cleared. No wrecks have been attributed to the falling rocks, which also fell in the area Jan. 4.

Freezing temperatures have been reported in the Merced River canyon, including Tuesday night. When the freeze thaws, this prompts the rockslides, Greene explained.

Both CHP officers and Caltrans workers were traveling the highway looking for falling rocks. Caltrans Division 10 spokesman Chantel Miller in Stockton said state highway workers normally patrol the highway during winter months looking for icy conditions and other obstructions.

"Minor rockslides are not unusual occurrences given the steep terrain in the canyon," Miller said.

The latest rockslides are about eight miles from the Ferguson rockslide which took place April 4, 2006, completely blocking the highway for several months. A temporary bridge was later built around the massive amount of debris.

Greene said CHP officers directed traffic around the blocked lanes; traffic was light and no significant delays were reported. Most of the motorists using the highway are National Park Service employees or El Portal residents at this time of year.

He urged motorists to use caution driving on the highway as even small rocks can damage a vehicle's oil pan, oil lines, tires and suspension parts.

Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman said January is the slowest month for visitors to the park. He said rockslides are typical following heavy rains.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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