Massive slide covers stretch of iconic California highway

"This type of thing may become more frequent, but Big Sur has its own unique geology", said Dan Carl, a district director for the California Coastal Commission whose area includes Big Sur. "Million tons of rock/dirt, about 1/3 mile of roadway covered 35-40 feet deep".

State officials say highway damage from storms has topped $1 billion for the first time in California history.

Highway 1 is a popular North-West road that hugs the Pacific coast from Los Angeles to areas north of San Francisco.

The area of Mud Creek was heavily saturated with rain, and gave way, covering about a third of a mile of highway with 40-feet of earth.

"A massive slide. We've never seen anything like that", Jones said.

Even before the weekend damage, the state had closed the Highway 1 along Mud Creek to fix buckled pavement and remove debris after an earlier slide.

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.

Smith said crews had been out doing fix work at Mud Creek but were ordered out of the area a week ago because of small slides that were taking place nearly everyday.

"Mother Nature hard at work", Caltrans added.

Last year, a wildfire burned for almost three months in the Los Padres National Forest and on private land, sparked by an illegal campfire.

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.

Severe erosion led highway officials to shut down a bridge in Pfeiffer Canyon in February, and a March landslide closed a stretch of the road near Lime Kiln State Park.

On the other hand, he acknowledges his theory may be wishful thinking.

"We were concerned that there would be a slide, we just didn't think it would be of this size", he said. The new span is scheduled to open in September.

"We're all going to make it, I'm pretty sure", he said.

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