It was an unusual, if not jaw-dropping sight--even for residents in this blink of a community on Silverado Canyon Road, long lined with yellow signs warning of falling rocks. Two tons of boulders had rolled down a slope, carving a path through a brush-covered hillside on a 100-yard journey to the neighborhood below.
Just the sight of the rocks had half a dozen locals seated on lawn chairs and drinking root beer Monday, contemplating the scent of freshly turned dirt and wondering if any more boulders might barge into their lives.
Nobody was injured when the boulders tumbled down the rain-soaked hillside at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, but two homes and a convenience store were damaged. One woman was watching television in her recliner less than five feet from where a boulder crashed through a wall.
On Monday, it remained unclear who ultimately would be responsible for removing the boulders and repairing the damage.
While insurance adjusters surveyed the damaged structures, county officials were trying to prevent more rocks--loosened by the recent rains--from falling. They were reinforcing the hillside with fences and removing some boulders with backhoes.
"The county has to do its part to make sure the homes are safe," said Josh McDonnell, spokesman for the county planning department.
So far, though, no one was dealing with the ones that had tumbled onto private property and into buildings.
"Who is responsible for the rocks? That's unclear," McDonnell said. "Our main goal is to get people out of immediate danger."
Resident JohnMicheal Covas likes the look of the fallen boulders.
"It's just pure beauty," the attorney said. "Look at the mountains. Look at the peacefulness. But that's also life out here. It's as backwoods as you get."
To him and others, the boulders are part of the natural beauty of the landscape. And when they move from the hillsides above, they take on a life of their own, sometimes destroying what lies in their path, some residents say.
One man in his 60s who has lived in the area for 20 years but didn't want to give his name said each rock has a personality of sorts. It was a sentiment other residents echoed as they watched construction crews grapple with the big rocks.
"It's like this unwanted guest who . . . tracked mud all over your house," Covas said. "They do damage and you are stuck with it, I guess. What can you do? . . . It's a big rock."
Millie Valentine said she was watching the news from her recliner, worried about whether more rain was on its way. She gets nervous about the rain, she said, because rain soaks the ground and loosens boulders.
It was then that she heard a noise. And a boulder crashed into her TV room, sending bric-a-brac flying before the rock crashed through the floor into her garage below--where it still sat Monday like some petrified rhinoceros. All she could do after it happened, she said, was stare.