A section of California’s Highway 1 was covered by a massive landslide last weekend, adding to over $1 billion in highway damage for the state since the beginning of winter.
The landslide, taking place in the Big Sur area, resulted in a 40-foot layer of rock and dirt covering a portion of Highway 1. The debris is estimated to be more than 1 million tons, and covers a quarter mile stretch of road. This is the largest landslide recorded in state history.
“We haven’t been able to go up there and assess. It’s still moving,” said Susana Cruz, a spokesman for Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation. “We have geologists and engineers who are going to check it out this week to see how do we pick up the pieces.”
The landslide occurred in a section of Big Sur called Mud Creek, an area that was already inundated with landslides resulting from California’s historically wet winter. Restoration efforts for these other slides were called off while authorities waited for the ground to stabilize after this most recent disaster.
The falling rock was significant enough to alter the coastline below the highway, as shown by video from the local sheriff’s department.
“The slide went from bad to worse over the weekend and the video will give you a glimpse at the undertaking needed to open the road again,” said the sheriff’s department via Facebook.
Workers at Caltrans had a feeling there would be heavy activity in the area, and removed their equipment from the stretch of Highway 1 almost a week ago.
“We were fearful that something could happen,” said Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers. “We didn’t think it would be anything like this.”
Currently the road remains closed and there’s no estimate as to when the road will be open or how much the clearing effort will cost. The road closures have resulted in the isolation of Big Sur residents and a detriment to local businesses. Big Sur Chamber of Commerce President Kirk Gafill owns a restaurant that is currently seating
two to three dozen diners a day, as opposed to 600 to 1,000 normally.
In total, over 61 miles of Highway 1 have been closed this year, topping $1 billion in damage.