Landslide Cripples Portion of California’s Pacific Coast Highway

May 24, 2017

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A massive landslide buried a section California’s Pacific Coast Highway under millions of tons of debris last Saturday, shutting down a quarter mile of the iconic route. The damage to the highway itself is not yet known; California Department of Transportation officials say that the area — buried in nearly 40 feet of rubble in some places — is still too dangerous to access.

Without full access to the road, also known as Highway 1, Big Sur’s outdoor tourism and hiking industry may struggle. Highway 1 is an important access point for the region, and some towns have been cut off almost entirely by the slide. Residents of Gordo, CA, which lies between two separate highway closures, say they now drive many hours on backroads to avoid the impacted areas.

“It’s just been one thing after another and so inconvenient to get around,” resident Mike Handy, whose family runs the nearby Treebones Resort, told The San Francisco Chronicle.

A historically rainy winter left Big Sur’s breathtaking coastlines soggy and loose — ideal conditions for a major landslide. The latest incident happened in an area already closed because of an earlier slide, and up and down the highway numerous stretches have been damaged.

SFGate reports that Saturday’s landslide will add even more to an estimated $1 billion in damages to the highway this year. Repairing the highway is an annual chore for California; the state spent nearly $700 million to repair it in 2016. The damage may continue to come, Dan Carl, a district director for the California Coastal Commission, told SFGate.

“This type of thing may become more frequent, but Big Sur has its own unique geology,” Carl said. ”A lot of Big Sur is moving; you just don’t see it.”

California Department of Transportation has not yet announced when it expects to reopen the highway.

H/T: The San Francisco Chronicle

Featured image courtesy of Daveynin via Flickr.

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