Major California Highway Collapses, Thousands Stranded

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A section of California’s scenic Highway 1 along the Central Coast closed after a landslide caused a portion of the road to collapse near Big Sur.

The damage left thousands of tourists and locals stranded, leaving many trapped overnight.

A large chunk of the road fell off the cliffside and into the ocean.

“We want to emphasize that this is a state disaster,” Nicholas Pasculli, the director of communications for Monterey County, told SFGATE.

“The key now is for people who don’t belong down there to stay away from that area. We don’t need any more traffic along that stretch of the road,” Pasculli added.

SFGATE reports:

Caltrans engineers completed initial assessments of the highway early Sunday morning, determining that travel would be possible in the northbound lane under close supervision. Convoys began leading vehicles through ongoing road closures at noon, and southbound traffic will be directed through once those vehicles are cleared. More traffic will be guided and redirected again at 4 p.m., with northbound traffic prioritized.

Pasculli said the response to the washout has been “an all-out community effort,” with at least seven hotels, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds racing to offer up their amenities to people who were trapped. A temporary evacuation shelter set up at Big Sur Lodge was at about 75% capacity on Saturday night, he said, and some people ultimately chose to stay in their vehicles overnight.

The extent of damage caused by the landslide is still unknown, but the Central Coast has had a significant amount of rainfall over the last several days, with gusty conditions and hail pummeling the region over the weekend.

“The weather is a significant contributor to any natural disaster-type impact,” Pasculli said. “Today is a beautiful sunny day, but the roadway’s not safe. We want to make sure our first responders and emergency vehicles have free and clear passage so they can respond in lifesaving emergency situations.”

From the Associated Press:

The collapse occurred amid heavy rain Saturday afternoon near Rocky Creek Bridge about 17 miles (27 kilometers) south of Monterey, sending chunks of asphalt tumbling into the ocean from the southbound side of the two-lane road.

The highway was closed in both directions in the mountainous area of California’s central coast as engineers assessed the damage, said the state Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.

“We are working on a plan to get motorists evacuated from the area,” the California Highway Patrol said Saturday.

Around noon on Sunday, crews had determined that travel in the northbound lane was safe, and authorities began periodically escorting motorists around the damaged section. About 300 cars were waiting to travel northbound when officials led the first convoy through the area, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Some stranded motorists had slept in their cars overnight while others were sheltered at the nearby Big Sur Lodge, the newspaper said.

Caltrans spokesperson Kevin Drabinski said periodic convoys would continue over the coming days as crews shore up the highway, which had other closures because of rocks and debris in lanes. He urged people to avoid the area.

The famous route has seen frequent closures because of collapses, mud flows and rockslides during severe weather.

“A landslide along Highway 1 near Big Sur caused major problems this past weekend and now officials are telling out-of-towners to stay home,” ABC7 News Bay Area said.


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