New California Mudslide Is Enormous

Part of Highway 1 in Big Sur is buried under 40 feet of rock, dirt
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 24, 2017 6:55 AM CDT
Massive Landslide Buries Iconic California Highway
This aerial photo taken Monday shows a massive landslide along California's coastal Highway 1.   (John Madonna)

A massive landslide is the latest natural disaster to hit California's Big Sur, which relies heavily on an iconic coastal highway and tourism. Plus, it adds to a record $1 billion in highway damage from one of the state's wettest winters in decades. The weekend slide in Big Sur buried a portion of Highway 1 under a 40-foot layer of rock and dirt and changed the coastline to include what now looks like a rounded skirt hem, says Susana Cruz, a rep with the state Department of Transportation. More than 1 million tons of rock and dirt tumbled down a saturated slope in an area called Mud Creek, covering a quarter-mile stretch of Highway 1, reports the AP. Authorities have no estimate on when it might re-open. "We haven't been able to go up there and assess. It's still moving," Cruz said. It's the largest mudslide she knows of in the state's history. "It's one of a kind."

One of California's rainiest and snowiest winters on record has broken a five-year drought, but also caused flooding and landslides and sped up coastal erosion. "This type of thing may become more frequent, but Big Sur has its own unique geology," says a district director for the California Coastal Commission. "A lot of Big Sur is moving; you just don't see it." This winter has been particularly rough for Big Sur. Repeated landslides and floods have taken out bridges and highways, closed campgrounds, and forced resorts to shut down temporarily. Even before the weekend damage, the state had closed the Highway 1 along Mud Creek to repair buckled pavement and remove debris after an earlier slide. Authorities removed work crews from the area last week after realizing that saturated soil was increasingly unstable. (More Big Sur stories.)

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