A frequently closed section of Highway 1 is once again closed to traffic due to debris slides caused by this past weekend's stormy weather.
It's almost officially winter and this very often means that residents of Big Sur get cut off from the world in one direction or another. The winding, incredibly scenic section of Highway 1 that snakes long cliffs is, as many geologists have noted, in a part of California that is slowly falling into the ocean. And barring a grand solution to that unavoidable fact, there will be an annual or semi-annual process of cleanup and sometimes rebuilding so long as we don't give up on this highway altogether.
The first big storms of the season sent rocks tumbling onto the roadway on Highway 1 in multiple spots between Carmel and Ragged Point, causing a closure that began early Saturday. The section of road between Carmel and Big reopened on Sunday, but Highway 1 remains closed Monday between Fuller's Point, which is two and a half miles south of Big Sur, and Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County. This is due to "widespread and moderate damage," Caltrans said in a release, and damage assessments were still being made Sunday.
UPDATE (9 am): #Hwy1 remains CLOSED in both directions from #RaggedPoint to south of #BigSur. @CaltransD5 geo-tech engineers are assessing damage before cleanup. There is no estimated time of reopening. #Hwy1 is OPEN between #Carmel and Big Sur. pic.twitter.com/p3MknMkyoI— Caltrans District 5 (@CaltransD5) December 4, 2022
"Storm damage assessments today have revealed dozens of areas of concern," Caltrans said. "These range from rocks and debris in the roadway throughout sections of the entire length of the closure area, to more serious slides at Cow Cliffs, where a large rock breached the containment area."
As cleanup and assessments continue, Caltrans said they would update the closure parameters on Monday.
Until then, Big Sur is only accessible from the north.
This weekend's rockslides are similar to what occurred last December, around the 14th of the month, in similar rainstorms, which also temporarily closed Highway 1. The previous winter, in January 2021, storms washed out an entire section of the highway, prompting an emergency repair that took several months.
A massive landslide that occurred in May 2017 the area of Mud Creek on Highway 1, called the biggest in recorded state history, required almost a year of repairs, in which time Big Sur was only accessible from the north. That landslide followed an unusually wet winter which also saw the destruction of a bridge along Highway 1 to the north that cut off Big Sur completely for a number of months.