Officials urge residents near latest Big Sur landslide to evacuate as more rain approaches

Big Sur, CA - April 02: A convoy of vehicles are led through a closed section of Hwy. 1 as Caltrans crews assess damage after the road slipped out south of the Rocky Creek Bridge on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Big Sur, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Vehicles are led through a closed section of Highway 1 in Big Sur on Tuesday. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Officials are urging residents who live near the latest Big Sur landslide — where a chunk of cliffside road crashed into the ocean — to evacuate as more rain approaches, warning that many emergency services will not be able to access homes and businesses along an almost 30-mile stretch of scenic Highway 1.

The Monterey County Sheriff's Office issued an evacuation warning Wednesday morning for some areas of Big Sur ahead of the anticipated showers and thunderstorms, which officials worry could further destabilize or damage the roadway — the only route in or out for almost 1,400 residents.

The evacuation warning has been issued for residents living in the area stretching south from the recent landslide near the Rocky Creek Bridge in Carmel-by-the-Sea to just north of the Dolan Point Slide, where another road closure has been in effect since a January 2023 landslide.

Read more: Big Sur to be cut off again as damaged Highway 1 threatened by rain

Officials already announced a temporary halt to the twice-a-day, one-lane convoys that have allowed locals and essential workers to drive past the Rocky Creek slip-out. In light of the rains, there will be no convoys on Thursday and Friday and that section of the highway will be completely closed.

"If you are in an evacuation warning zone, consider leaving before the road closure," Monterey County officials said in a statement. "The road is anticipated to be closed for several days until the weather event passes through the area. If you feel unsafe, medically fragile, or are unprepared to be isolated for several days, leave immediately."

Residents were encouraged to evacuate north through the last convoy running Wednesday at 4 p.m.

"Emergency Medical Services may be unable to evacuate patients beyond the road closures," county officials said. "Those experiencing an emergency medical condition may be unable to leave the area to access hospitals or other medical services."

Read more: Convoys helping to move stranded travelers after Highway 1 landslide near Big Sur

State and Monterey County officials said Wednesday that a limited number of first responders, including trained volunteers and resident California Highway Patrol officers, would be positioned within the area bookended by the road closures.

“We're really doing everything we can to provide limited access that we're comfortable with, but it's really a situation where we're managing the risk," said Zeke Dellamas, a California Department of Transportation spokesperson. “We're cognizant of how much impact this has on the local community, the business community and potentially emergency response here, and we're moving forward as quickly as we can."

Kevin Drabinski, another CalTrans spokesperson, said crews continue to monitor the area and there's no evidence the slip-out has worsened since the original slide.

“But because it’s such a new event and because it’s such a new location and because it was likely caused by saturated ground and recent rain events, we’re going to suspend any travel across the closure area," Drabinski said.

The convoys are expected to resume Saturday at 8 a.m.

Read more: Big Sur tourism 'on standstill' after its connecting roadway crumbles into the sea -- again

About 300 vehicles have convoyed through the area during each of the two latest 8 a.m. escorts, officials said.

Drabinski said officials hope to be able to open the damaged stretch of road for unrestricted one-lane travel, but there's no timeline on that. He said crews have been working this week to examine stability, fortify drainage systems and do some paving work on the damaged southbound lane.

A cold Pacific storm is expected to bring rain and cool temperatures across California as early as Wednesday night.

While National Weather Service officials said it's not a particularly wet storm, rainfall totals along the Big Sur coastline could still reach a half-inch Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. But thunderstorms could drive heavier rainfall in some local areas, meteorologists said.

County officials are worried that those amounts could cause additional damage along Highway 1, the statement said.

The initial slip-out on Saturday occurred as a storm dumped heavy rain on the region. Rain has continued to threaten Highway 1, causing damaging mudslides and landslides.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.