California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) officials said in a statement Friday a debris flow from the hillside above the roadway “overwhelmed drainage infrastructure, flowed across the highway, and eroded the road resulting in the complete loss of a segment of Highway 1” at Rat Creek, about 15 miles south of Big Sur, a mountainous stretch of the state’s central coast.
California Highway Patrol Officer John Yerace said he was in the area on Thursday around 4 p.m. when he noticed “this section of roadway, specifically the southbound lane, had fallen off into the ocean.”
Caltrans crews discovered the debris flow on Thursday, and issued an emergency contract to Papich Construction in San Luis Obispo County to assist with the repair. At daybreak Friday, Caltrans crews and emergency contractors arrived at the scene and found “both lanes of the highway had washed out.”
The damage assessment team will continue to work through the weekend, Caltrans’ statement said. It’s unclear how long the repair could take and the road will remain closed in the meantime.
Officer Yerace said upon discovery of the washed out road he stayed at the scene to keep motorists safe until he was relieved. He later returned.
“Some time overnight, prior to 6:30 this morning, we responded back to the scene with the assistance of Caltrans access and realized that the roadway is now gone,” he said.
At least 25 structures in Northern California have been damaged as a result of mudslides and debris flow caused by a powerful atmospheric river-fueled storm. Most of the impacted areas are where burn scars exist from earlier wildfires.