Massive Big Sur landslide could keep highway closed 1 year

Landslide near Mud Creek covers portion of Highway 1 in California

Landslide near Mud Creek covers portion of Highway 1 in California

Officials say a massive landslide in Big Sur could keep a portion of California's iconic coastal highway closed for a year and cost millions of dollars to fix.

More than 1 million tons of rock and dirt tumbled down a saturated slope in an area called Mud Creek. The highway is the main artery running through Big Sur, a picturesque stretch that is a major tourist attraction. "It was active. And you can't have equipment up there when the slide is moving", said Caltrans spokesperson Susana Cruz.

Landslide near Mud Creek covers portion of Highway 1 in California

According to the Huffington Post, there was no reported injuries or damage (beyond the buried highway) as a result of the landslide. Cruz said this year's punishing rain just ended up being too much.

Crews also must be wary of their own safety around the slide, as it still continues to shift, Shivers said.

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But heavy rains since January have caused several long closures.

Caltrans estimate it will take about a year to fix and reopen Highway 1 after a massive slide at Mud Creek. The new bridge is scheduled to open in September. Caltrans removed crews from Mud Creek before Saturday's slide after they saw increased activity in the days prior. But those wanting to get farther north or south would have to take an interior county road to USA 101, some 40 miles inland.

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"That information will then lead us to a strategy for repairs", he said. In the fiscal year ending in June, Caltrans said that storms across the state have caused more than $1 billion in highway damage, the AP reports. This sum did not include the latest landslide. Cruz said the slide appears to be slightly larger than the 1983 slide near Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park that kept Highway 1 closed for 13 months.

"I don't think they anticipated anything of this magnitude", Shivers said. The executive director of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Stan Russell, told the newspaper that while residents are used to erosion strewing rubble across the road, "This one, people are referring to as the mother of all landslides".

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Landslides are so common in Big Sur that they get names. Repeated landslides and floods have taken out bridges and highways, closed campgrounds, and forced some resorts to shut down temporarily or use helicopters to fly in guests and supplies. "You can have this really wonderful experience, not having to be here with a lot of people", said Kirk Gafill, co-owner of the landmark Nepenthe Restaurant and president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce.

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