We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

What felt like an earthquake awoke Leticia Alba, 43, early Monday at her south Santa Rosa home abutting Highway 101.

But it was not a seismic tremor. Alba's home shook and quaked from the force of a metal plate catapulting through the walls after a big rig jackknifed into a highway guardrail.

The foot-square plate blasted through a fence, tore a hole in the bedroom wall of the mobile home and flew above Alba, her husband and their 6-year-old son as they slept. The plate then ripped through another wall and cracked a window as it passed through the hallway before chipping the kitchen table and lodging into a support beam.

"There was so much noise, I hung on to my son," Alba said.

The 5:10 a.m. crash on northbound Highway 101 near Todd Road snarled both morning and evening commute traffic for miles as officers and crews dealt with the wreck.

One lane was closed for more than 13 hours, funneling motorists into two lanes until the third lane finally reopened at about 6:30 p.m.

<NO1><NO>Only a line of redwood trees and a chain link fence stands between the Rancho Santa Rosa Mobile Home Park and the highway.

<NO1><NO>No one was hurt, and Alba said she and her family felt extremely lucky, though still shaken.

"I'm not hungry today, and I kept thinking, 'Why am I not hungry?'<TH>" said Alba, who returned home after a day's work at Costco. "Then I think, 'Oh yeah' .<TH>.<TH>."

Driver Trinidad Ochoa, 39, of Lathrop had left Stockton at about 1:30<TH>a.m. and was heading north toward Airport Boulevard when he somehow lost control of the rig, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said.

The Ryder truck carrying a haul of groceries crashed into a ditch along the slow lane.

Two doors down from Alba, her older daughter's boyfriend, Saul Sanchez, 25, said the crash shook his home as well.

He said other neighbors said they heard a "boom boom boom," which they later surmised was the sound of the rig crashing into trees before it ended up off the road in a ditch.

When Sanchez realized the damage was limited to Alba's home, Sanchez said he ran through the mobile unit with her, looking for what caused the damage.

"We're looking for a couple of minutes .<TH>.<TH>. what happened? Then I saw it there," said Sanchez, pointing to the gash in the support beam where the plate was lodged.

Investigators had come to the home to see the damage and took the metal piece.

The metal plate was a connection piece on the guardrail that flew about 85 feet from the barrier into the home, said Sloat with the CHP.

"It was bolted in place and attached to a tension wire," Sloat said. "The bolt failed and slung that sucker right through (the wall)."

CHP officers were investigating what led to the crash, including whether Ochoa could have fallen asleep after driving much of the night or if the truck had malfunctioned.

Ochoa initially told officers another driver had cut him off, but investigators found no evidence to support that statement, Sloat said.

Ochoa was bleeding from cuts to his face or head when emergency responders first arrived. He was treated for the minor injuries.

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

The rig crashed off the road north of the Todd Road on-ramp, and CHP officers closed the slow lane to allow crews to undertake the lengthy process of removing it.

The trailer, which was full of groceries and held a forklift, also had to be emptied. The crash had damaged the rig's fuel tanks, which leaked about 30 gallons of diesel.

Northbound traffic was backed up to about the Highway 116 junction in Cotati, and "rubber-neckers" caused backups heading south as far as Steele Lane, Sloat said. Drivers avoiding the highway caused snarls on northbound Santa Rosa Avenue as well, he said.

Neighbors at the mobile home park gathered outside in the evening to share a meal on tables set up between homes. Sanchez said he and others are planning to start a petition to get a barrier built between the highway and neighborhood.

Alba said she's lived there for 16 years.

"I now think, maybe this is too dangerous without a wall," Alba said.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com.