Isolated travelers escorted past Big Sur Hwy 1 road collapse as state parks remain closed

J.R. Stone Image
Monday, April 1, 2024
Witness describes navigating Big Sur area after road collapse
Witness describes navigating Big Sur area after road collapse

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. -- A landslide along Highway 1 near Big Sur caused major problems this past weekend and now officials are telling out-of-towners to stay home.

All state parks in the Big Sur area are now closed until further notice. This comes on a popular vacation week as several school district are on Spring Break.

According to CHP, this weekend between 1,600 and 2,000 people were stuck in Big Sur after this slide.

Viewer video shows the damaged area on Highway 1 near the Rocky Creek Bridge in Monterey County.

In that video you can see a section of the southbound lane going into Big Sur is now missing after it slid down the cliff Saturday afternoon.

No one was hurt but Caltrans immediately closed the highway, meaning no one in and no one out.

"I'm like oh my gosh are we gonna be stuck here for weeks? What is happening? This is not planned," said Linda Molinari of Hollister.

Molinari was with her boyfriend. They made a last minute decision to go have lunch in Big Sur and ended up having to stay in their camper Saturday night.

They estimate that this slide happened 30 minutes after they drove along this lane.

"So that's just crazy to even think about. So many people are messaging me like why don't you just go south and go around this road that goes over the hill? And I'm like cause one is closed south also, that part slid away months ago; so there's literally no road that goes through the mountain to get to 101 or anything. That's the only way," said Molinari.

Caltrans says that while they do monitor all of Highway 1, they hadn't been specifically eying this area.

"We'll try to immediately try and stabilize that edge and design a repair to make a structural fix at that location," said Kevin Drabinski of Caltrans District 5.

Caltrans will allow organized caravans of essential workers and residents to go through at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. over the next few days. They are asking tourists to stay home.

"Big Sur is not the place to go right," said Nick Pasculli, communications director of Monterey County.

"We are encouraging people to stay away from the area!" said a Monterey County Sheriff's Commander.

Linda and her boyfriend were one of nearly 300 vehicles that made it out midday Sunday when the highway reopened for the first Caltrans caravan. They took video showing the long lines and the damaged roadway. She's happy to be home, grateful they had their camper, but saddened to spend Easter like they did.

"It was really hard when the firefighters said like, 'Oh you get to sleep here tonight sorry it's not gonna open.' Like all of the normal like big family gathering that happens, like grandparents you know it's Easter tomorrow what do you mean we can't go home? We can't miss the whole family celebration so amazing to get home, but still that bittersweet like you missed a holiday just trying to go to lunch on a random day."

The cause of this slide is under investigation but it was raining really hard around the time this happened.