A California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Fifth District message warned drivers of the closure on Jan. 29 from a “partial washout.” The washout occurred near Rat Creek about 15 miles south of Big Sur, according to Caltrans, which added that Highway 1 remains open from Carmel to the town of Big Sur.
Photos posted from the scene showed a significant piece of the hillside and road missing. Due to the size of the missing chunk, it appears that the section of Highway 1 will remain impassible for a considerable amount of time.
Check out this amazing drone video of #Hwy1 washout at Rat Creek about 15 miles south of #BigSur. Our crews are on site securing it, assessing damage & starting clean-up/ repairs. Reminder: the road is OPEN from #Carmel thru town of Big Sur. @bigsurkate @BigSurCC @CHP_Coastal pic.twitter.com/rB193DzXhL
— Caltrans District 5 (@CaltransD5) January 29, 2021
Toks Omishakin, director of the California Department of Transportation, wrote that it could be several weeks before the highway is reconstructed. He called on people to “avoid this area” of Monterrey and San Luis Obispo counties.
Some Impacts of #ExtremeWeather #SeaLevelRise in our state. Hwy 1 will be closed for several weeks due to this roadway slip. Avoid this area of #MonterreyCounty & #SLOCounty. Txs to team @CaltransD5 @CHP_HQ @Cal_OES as they help lead recovery on this. pic.twitter.com/141ZCIuhL5
— Toks Omishakin, 33rd Director – California DOT (@ToksOmishakin) January 29, 2021
Caltrans told CNN that debris that fell during the mudslide from above “overwhelmed drainage infrastructure, flowed across the highway, and eroded the road, resulting in the complete loss of a segment of Highway 1.”
Locals stated that the washout will be bad for business.
“Oh my gosh! All our businesses came through the spring, summer, and fall” because people “were desperate to get out of their towns,” Mary Ann Carson, executive director of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, told a local newspaper. “Then we had the normal January slow season, were looking forward” to increasing visitor traffic next month, she said.
“We can’t take another year or two years of no traffic,” she said. “It would be great if the state would build a temporary road, maybe behind that hill, for people to traverse while Caltrans rebuilds the damaged section. I’m sure [chamber board President] Mel McColloch will be on the job, bugging Caltrans.”