The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office has released a video showing a collapsed portion of Highway 1 along the steep coast of California after heavy rains.
The clip begins with a driver’s view of the highway as the vehicle winds along the coast near Big Sur. Suddenly, both lanes of the road disappear, leaving a 150-foot gap over a muddy hole sloping toward the Pacific Ocean.
A hillside “debris flow” above the roadway, which began on Thursday, “overwhelmed drainage infrastructure, flowed across the highway and eroded the road, resulting in the complete loss of a segment of Highway 1,” said a statement from the California Department of Transportation. It occurred about 45 miles south of Carmel along the state’s central coast.
The landslide occurred about 1 mile south of a huge burn area left by last summer’s Dolan Fire. Land denuded by wildfire is far more prone to landslides in heavy rains. Up to 10 inches of rain fell in parts of the area in just a few days. Sixteen inches of rain pelted a peak in the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains from Tuesday to Friday.
No one was injured in the road collapse. The highway had been closed because of fears of a mudslide.
Another section of the highway near Big Sur was buried by a landslide in May 2017. It reopened in July 2018.
“This road is prone to rockfall and slides, and this is just the nature of the highway,” Caltrans spokesperson Kevin Drabinski told The New York Times. “We built a road on the edge of a continent and we have the forces of the hillside and the ocean always at play.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has declared a state of emergency for Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties due to the winter storms that have triggered several landslides and forced the evacuation of thousands of area residents.