Highway 1, a scenic route that stretches 656 miles along the California coast, was hit by a massive landslide in the Big Sur area in what locals say is one of the biggest landslides in their lifetimes.
Up to 40 feet of rock and dirt covered a third of a mile on the iconic highway in the incident that occurred at Mud Creek about 9 miles north of the southern Monterey County border, according to the Monterey Herald and Associated Press.
Caltrans spokeswoman Susana Cruz told the Herald that there are five active landslides in the area and it was believed four of them came down together around 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
"There was so much saturation and so much weight," Cruz told the Herald, adding that springs in the area keep the soil muddy.
Fortunately, Highway 1 had been closed at Ragged Point near the county border months ago because of other landslides near Mud Creek that were triggered by one of the rainiest winters in California in decades. Crews had been working to repair buckled pavement and to remove debris.
Nobody was injured in the latest landslide on Highway 1, but it was quite a sight.
"A massive slide," Caltrans spokesman told AP. "We've never seen anything like that."
Neither have several local residents.
Kirk Gafill, who grew up in Big Sur, could only remember a 1983 landslide north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park that was as big, but told the Herald the Mud Creek slide was one of the largest in his lifetime in the Big Sur area.
"If it's not the biggest, it's certainly right up there," the 55-year-old said.
Cruz said it’s the biggest she’s seen since joining Caltrans in 2001.
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Caltrans didn't speculate how long it would take for officials to reopen Highway 1. They first need to wait until the immediate danger has passed before making an assessment on how to strengthen the hillside and rebuild the highway.
Gafill remembers how long it took to reopen the highway after the 1983 landslide, which might give an idea how long it will take this time.
"That location was closed for 14 months," he said.