A major new rockslide has buried a stretch of California's iconic Highway 1 in up to 40 feet of stone and dirt, the latest hit in a soggy winter of slides, floods and road closings along the winding Central California coast road, state transportation officials said Monday.
A swath of the hillside gave way in an area called Mud Creek on Saturday night, covering about one-third of a mile of road and changing the Big Sur coastline immediately below, a spokesman with the California Department of Transportation said.
"A massive slide. We've never seen anything like that," said Colin Jones, the transportation agency's spokesman for the area.
The state already had closed that part of Highway 1 to repair buckled pavement and other, earlier damage from one of California's rainiest winters in decades. Authorities removed work crews from the area last week after realizing that saturated soil in that area was increasingly unstable, Jones said. "Now it's covering 10 times as much," he said.
State road officials plan to wait for the immediate slide danger to pass before going back to start figuring out how to strengthen the hillside and rebuild and reopen that part of the road, he said.
Narrow, windy Highway 1 through Big Sur is a major tourist draw, attracting visitors to serene groves of redwoods, beaches, and the highway's dramatic oceanside scenery.
The rough winter has closed at least two other stretches of road in the area, forcing some resorts to close and some others to use helicopters to ferry in supplies and guests.
Even though the rainy season mostly has stopped and the sun come out again, "it doesn't mean the ground isn't shifting now based on what happened over the winter," Jones said.