Section of California Highway 1 that collapsed in Big Sur closes again as new storm arrives

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A new storm devastated California and once again forced the closure of the scenic Highway 1 in the iconic Big Sur, where one of its two lanes collapsed into the ocean after heavy rain.

BIG SUR, California – A new storm hit California on Thursday, again forcing the closure of scenic Highway 1 in iconic Big Sur, where one of its two lanes collapsed into the ocean after heavy rains over the weekend.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office had warned residents in the region to consider leaving before the road was closed Wednesday afternoon, especially if they have medical problems. The route was not expected to reopen until Saturday.

The California Department of Transportation had been cautiously moving convoys of residents and essential workers past the slide area in both directions twice a day in the lane left intact.

Leaving the area requires heading north toward Monterey Bay because a 12-mile (19-kilometer) stretch of Highway 1 to the south has been blocked for some time by three previous slides that required massive repair projects.

The San Francisco Bay Area weather office said the unseasonably cold storm arrived in the morning with brief heavy rain, hail, low-lying snow and lightning. Thunderstorms are possible due to subsequent air instability, the bureau said.

At the site of the road slide it rained early in the day, but there was little precipitation until the middle of the day. A second weather disturbance was expected in the area on Friday, before heading toward Southern California.

The closure interrupted visitor Tammy Fisher’s trip from San Francisco to San Diego.

“One of our attractions was Big Sur, but as you can see, we had a little hiccup,” Fisher said in an interview at a roadblock. “Now we’re going to make a U-turn and find out where the detour will take us.”

Big Sur is a 90-mile (145-kilometer) stretch of the state’s central coast where forested and often misty mountains descend to the ocean. Much of Highway 1 sits on the edge of cliffs, presenting spectacular views that attract tourists. The route suffers frequent closures due to landslides resulting from bad weather.

The latest collapse occurred Saturday near the Rocky Creek Bridge, about 17 miles (27 kilometers) south of Monterey, temporarily stranding up to 1,600 people in Big Sur. Most were able to leave when the single lane reopened Sunday, Caltrans spokesman Kevin Drabinski said earlier this week.

Five California state parks in the area were closed indefinitely after the slide, and local media reported that the Carmel Unified School District said the evacuation warning prompted the closure of an elementary and preschool school on Thursday and Friday.

Engineers were required to remain on site during the storms to monitor any changes, Caltrans said in a statement.

“Crews continue to focus on strategies to stabilize the roadside and work will continue once the rain passes,” Caltrans said Thursday.

Total losses for Big Sur businesses since the last crash have exceeded $1 million each day, Kirk Gafill, president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday.

Work also continued at the sites of three other major landslides along the highway in Big Sur, Caltrans said.


Antczak reported from Los Angeles.

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