By Tom Lemon
August 10, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) — When you're driving east on Interstate 8 past Jacumba and the Desert View Tower there's a sharp left turn and you begin to descend Mountain Springs Grade. You will drop about three thousand feet to the desert in ten miles, and can see the remains of Old Highway 80 in the canyons and some of the original concrete road just past the Mountain Springs exit.
Slow down and take in the beauty, most travelers are trying to avoid going over eighty miles-per-hour. (Hwy. 80 was the name, not the speed limit!)
The "new" Interstate 8 was constructed in the early 1960's and many tons of rock were blasted away to create a modern high speed path to Arizona and beyond.
In 1976 Hurricane Kathleen roared up from the south and a forty footwall of water exited Meyer Creek heading for the small town of Ocotillo. The water was "only" four feet high as it reached the town and split it in two. There is still a North and South Ocotillo.
Interstate 8 and the SD&AZ railroad were washed out and San Diego's two links to the east were gone. Caltrans Engineer Dave Delvey had a plan - as described in the book Tropical Storm, written by Caltrans Information Officer James L. Larson, 1977. The damage was so great to the eastbound lanes that they would build a detour around the washed-out Meyers creek bridge on the westbound lanes to open this important Interstate road. Work began at dawn the following day Saturday, September 11, 1976 by crews hired from El Centro, and by the following Friday, the westbound lane was opened to two way traffic. Six days! What a feat by Caltrans and the contractors.
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