If you took a glimpse at the uprising and jagged Vasquez Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, California, and immediately suspected underground “graboids” from the 90s movie Tremors, you’re not alone. Residents joked about subterranean worms causing this weekend’s sudden, three-day lifting and warping of the highway, yet the actual cause may be just as mysterious.
Starting Thursday, 19 November, motorists alerted California Highway Patrol that the stretch of road had begun rising and crumbling. Over the next three days, the 60-meter section continued to lift and twist – at some points reaching 15 feet in height and becoming nearly perpendicular to the ground. The first guess as to the mysterious phenomenon’s origins was an earthquake, yet no nearby seismic activity could have triggered such an event.
UCLA professor Jeremy Boyce was eager to bring his students to the site for one of the best geology field trips ever. Of the event, he told CBS Los Angeles, “When we think about geology, we think about processes that happen over millions and billions of years, so the opportunity to bring students out and see something happening over a scale of hours gives them the idea that not only does geology take forever, it can also happen almost instantaneously.”
Geologist Dave Petley of the AGU Landslide Blog suspects it was likely a progressive landslide that caused the freeway to appear to lift. Soil may have moved underneath the roadway, causing it to rise and contort. Other scientists postulate that the underground rock may have become saturated with water, making it easier for the layers of land to slide. The area is still being investigated and is currently closed to motorists.
Images via CBS Los Angeles