Residents of Big Sur are being told that their last chance to evacuate the area for the next several days is at 4 pm Wednesday, after which there will be no more convoys of vehicles allowed to pass across a partially collapsed section of Highway 1.

Monterey County officials issued an evacuation warning Wednesday morning for the entire area of Big Sur south of Rocky Creek, where a section of the southbound lane of Highway 1 fell into the ocean last weekend, stranding around 1,600 people overnight. Imminent rain has officials worried about further slip-outs or other damage that could make Highway 1 impassible, and Caltrans will be closing the road entirely Thursday and Friday.

"Residents may evacuate via Highway 1 to the north during the last convoy at 4 PM, on Wed, April 3 prior to a full road closure at the Rocky Creek Slip out," the officials said. "If you are in an Evacuation Warning Zone, consider leaving before the road closure. The road is anticipated to be closed for several days until the weather event passes through the area. If you feel unsafe, medically fragile, or are unprepared to be isolated for several days, leave immediately."

Since Monday morning, there have been daily convoys going through the damaged area of Highway 1 using a single lane, one each in the northbound and southbound directions at 8 am and 4 pm, but those convoys will not be happening Thursday or Friday.

Photo via Caltrans

This means a familiar situation to longtime Big Sur residents is happening again: They will be fully cut off from the rest of the world due to a damaged roadway.

With the northern route out of Big Sur toward Monterey blocked, there is no way to get off the coast except to hike over mountains. Two sections of Highway 1 at the southern end of the region have been blocked for over a year due to landslides that occurred in early 2023.

Monterey County spokesperson Nicholas Pasculli tells the Chronicle that convoys in and out of Big Sur will likely resume Saturday, after the latest storm passes, but this will depend on the continued stable condition of Highway 1 near Rocky Creek, and no future landslides occurring on other sections of the road.

While the Bay Area didn't necessarily see very heavy rains last weekend, the rain that was falling in Big Sur was considerably more significant on Saturday. National Weather Service meteorologist Dylan Flynn tells the Chronicle that Big Sur was getting 2 inches of rain per hour at the peak of last weekend's storm, which caused soil saturation that likely led to the slip-out at Rocky Creek.

"It raises our hair a little," Flynn tells the Chronicle. "The soils have shown they can’t take much more rain."

The Chronicle notes, via a count by the California Geological Survey, that the California coast has seen 21 landslides in the first three months of 2024 alone.

Caltrans has yet to make any estimate of when a repair might be complete on the damaged section of Highway 1, and this could spell financial disaster for Big Sur hotels, motels, and restaurants in the coming spring and summer seasons. If the convoy system continues as is, brave tourists will have to sit in a long line of traffic to get in or out of the area, and only be able to do so twice a day.

The area has survived worse, and not that long ago. There was a huge washout of Highway 1 that cut off the community in January 2021, and a major bridge into the area, the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, was damaged in a landslide in February 2017 and had to be demolished, with the replacement bridge construction lasting seven months. There was also a massive landslide further south on Highway 1 in May 2017 that was called the biggest in state history, and that cut off the southern entry into Big Sur for well over a year.

Such constant volatility threatening this two-lane road has officials regularly asking aloud how long the state can continue this battle with nature, as they were again just this week.

Previously: Road Collapse On Highway 1 Strands Around 1,600 People In Big Sur Over Holiday Weekend