As if sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on Highway 101 the day before Thanksgiving isn't bad enough, holiday travelers on the biggest travel day of the year also have to contend with thunderstorms and a mystery person (or persons) who's been hurling projectiles at vehicles along a stretch in Prunedale and Aromas.
The California Highway Patrol is stepping up enforcement over the holiday weekend along the stretch of highway between Highway 156 and Aromas where 42 known incidents of vehicles being struck by projectiles have taken place over the last couple of months.
Officials aren’t revealing how they are surveilling the area on the hunt for the projectile culprit, so as not to tip anyone off, according to CHP Public Information Officer Jessica Madueño. The agency has not revealed what the projectiles are, or how they might be lobbed at speeding vehicles.
The most recent case was Monday, Nov. 25, around 5pm, preceded by another on Saturday at 2pm. On Friday, a Carmel Unified School Bus carrying the Carmel High School Padres Football team was struck, inflicting minor injuries to one student caused by broken glass. The team was on its way to the Central Coast Section playoffs in San Jose, to face off against Branham High School. The game was held up for hours as the Padres waited for another bus. (They lost, 55-20.) In another case that night, two occupants in a Mercedes were injured, one with minor lacerations to a hand and another with minor lacerations to an eye.
There’s a $4,000 reward being offered for any information leading to an arrest in the case, and that amount is expected to increase, Madueño says. She also says the CHP is getting help from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department in the investigation.
Enforcement is being increased in general by the CHP Coastal Division, along 300 miles of Highway 101 from Santa Cruz County to Ventura County, comprising 11 CHP patrol offices, as part of a Maximum Enforcement Corridor Operation.
During the operation, CHP officers will be on the lookout for unsafe driving, seatbelt violations, speeding, distracted driving and signs of impairment. Last year on the same day before Thanksgiving, the Coastal Division responded to 40 traffic collisions, including seven with injuries and one fatality.
With thunderstorms expected off and on throughout the busy travel day, the agency is now responding to crashes on top of the scheduled operation, Madueño says.
The National Weather Service is predicting a 90 percent chance of rain in the Monterey area during the day and 80 percent overnight. A break in the rain is expected around 8am on Thanksgiving Day, resuming possibly around 2pm.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect new information from the CHP.