2,000 Motorists Stranded After Part of Highway 1 in California Collapses

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A portion of Highway 1 in the Big Sur area of California collapsed over the weekend, stranding about 2,000 motorists, most of them tourists, overnight.

Officials with the California Department of Transportation said on the X platform that a section of the highway, from Lime Creek to the north and Limekiln to the south, would remain closed, while crews worked on the affected areas. On Friday the officials said that a section, known as Ragged Point, was shuttered “due to slide activity north of this location.”

There were no reported injuries. The agency did not give an estimate of when it expected to reopen the highway.

On Sunday afternoon, officials with the Monterey County Department of Emergency Management sent convoys with police escorts to get people out of the affected areas, Nicholas Pasculli, a spokesman for the county, said.

Many of those stranded were visitors who were driving through the area, considered among one of the most picturesque in the world, over the Easter holiday and had to sleep in temporary shelters, which were at 75 percent capacity, Mr. Pasculli said. Others stayed in local hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and campgrounds, and others slept in their cars, he added.

Another convoy is scheduled for Monday morning in case the crews are not able to reach everyone by Sunday night, he said.

“We’re hoping we can get all the visitors out today. That’s our hope. That’s our goal,” Mr. Pasculli said. “Suffice it to say, it’s a holiday weekend. You know, this area is a beautiful area, and people like to come visit.”

Monterey County issued a disaster declaration, and officials were urging people to avoid the highway. “We’re asking everyone to stay away from that area to allow for safe passage of emergency personnel, emergency vehicles and essential workers,” Mr. Pasculli said.

An unseasonably cold and vigorous storm system cut through the southwestern Pacific Coast this weekend, bringing rain, flash flooding and snow to parts of California and elsewhere. A flood warning was in effect on Sunday in the San Diego area, as the storm continued to move along the coast before heading inland, forecasters said.

The rain was expected to continue on Sunday with a chance of thunderstorms, the Los Angeles office of the National Weather Service wrote on Sunday. Weather forecasters warned people to prepare for hail, strong winds and even a risk of tornadoes.

Last year, relentless winter storms in California caused landslides that blocked a 20-mile stretch of Big Sur for several weeks.

In January 2021, a storm caused similar damage to a stretch of the highway, and portions were closed after heavy rains threatened to set off mudslides and rockslides.

Over the years, landslides have taken out portions of California’s Highway 1, which stretches more than 650 miles, from south of Los Angeles to north of San Francisco, through Big Sur and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Most notably, in May 2017, some 6 million cubic yards of earth moved after torrential rainfalls, adding 15 acres of coastline. The highway underwent repairs and reopened a year later.

Before that, the largest landslide to damage the highway, more commonly called the Pacific Coast Highway, took place in 1983, farther north at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.


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