UPDATE: Another Slide on Highway 1
March 28, 2011
UPDATED: March 28 4:15pm
No sooner had Caltrans crews cleared the rock slide near Limekiln State Park on Sunday, when another slide of mud and boulders covered Highway 1 at Alder Creek early Monday, cutting Big Sur off from both north and southbound traffic for the second time in as many weeks.
Caltrans reports the closure will be in effect for "at least a couple of days."
The one bit of good news for Big Sur residents comes with the clearing of the Limekiln slide, granting them access to the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road—the only route (besides the damaged Highway 1) in and out of the area.
UPDATED: March 27 7:30pm
Between Tons of Rock and a Hard Closure
By: Gabriel Skvor
The mudslide south of Limekiln State Park has effectively cut off any travel in or out of Big Sur, which has brought the local economy to near hibernation.
With a hard closure in effect on Highway 1 to the north until at least mid-April, restaurants and bars in the area are mostly relying on business from locals to stay open.
Stopping in at Nepenthe and seeing an empty bar and only two tables with customers, is as surreal as seeing three-fourths of a roadway disappear into the Pacific in an afternoon.
“We want to stay open. We want our people to work. Today we did about 10 lunches and 10 dinners,” Alicia Hahn of Nepenthe said. “Right now we have some locals from Esalen (eating dinner) and a few burly guys who took a secret trail to get back in from the north.”
Understanding that people need to get to their families or to work (if they haven’t been told to stay home), CalTrans and CHP gave people a one-hour window to get through, between 5pm and 6pm. They will try doing the same on subsequent days as weather and stability of the cliff face permits, letting everyone out who wants to leave, but only letting locals in at times that remain unclear.
According to Hahn, Nepenthe’s chef, Greg Lizza made it to Big Sur through this window on Friday.
Deetjens at the Big Sur Inn, also had employees drive in during the temporary opening to work on Friday, and like Nepenthe, they are also as slow for dinner.
“A couple of weeks ago we were full [tonight] for dinner,” Deetjens’ chef Domingo Santamaria said. “We would have had a party of 24 coming in tonight.”
Santamaria took the detour down treacherous Nacimiento-Fergusson Road in a hailstorm that had him driving under 10 miles per hour, on Wednesday night, before the road slid on Thursday.
Other businesses are also taking what locals are referring to as, “Being stranded on Big Sur Island,” in stride. The Big Sur River Inn is offering $10 dinner specials (that change nightly) and seems to be the busiest of the Big Sur food spots. Manager Brian Mazurek was mopping the floor after closing and he said they made close to 40 dinners, also with very minimal help.
At Fernwood Resort, the bar was set to close much earlier than normal, but business had been good up until Friday night.
“Last night (Thursday) we were busy because we had a captive audience,” Fernwood bartender Mark Marron said. “Nobody could go either north or south.”
Ashleigh Poland, bar manager at the Big Sur Maiden Publick, was a bit sad that she wasn’t as busy as usual on a Friday night, but wasn’t worried.
“It’s a good thing people still drink,” Poland said.
Even the resident deputy, who was ordering takeout at the pub, had an optimistic outlook on the Big Sur community and how it was coping.
“Nobody’s freaking out. The slide to the south is business as usual for this coastline. When the [Big Sur] river was at flood level people were enjoying it,” the lawman said. “If anything, I get in the way of the locals when they’re taking care of their business."
Gabriel Skvor is a former Weekly intern who lives in Big Sur.
UPDATED: March 25 3:30pm
A rock slide on Highway 1 near Limekiln State Park remains uncleared as mountainsides soaked by days of heavy rain continue to cause problems along the embattled highway.
Although Caltrans estimated the road would be clear by Friday, they have yet to remove the tons of mud and boulders that block the only road out of a large part of Big Sur and are giving no estimates for when the road might be passable.
UPDATED: March 24 at 2:50pm
A rock and mud slide has inundated a section of Highway 1 near Limekiln State Park, making Big Sur virtually inaccessible for the time being. The slide occured roughly one mile north of the Nacimiento-Fergusson road which has been many Big Sur residents only route to the Peninsula.
California Highway Patrol initially reported the road would be closed for "most" of Thursday as Caltrans looked to have the highway clear in a few hours. At the writing of this update Caltrans reports they will not have the road completely clear until Thursday evening at the earliest.
There is still no pedestrian traffic permitted at the Rocky Point slide-out to the north and officials say assessing a walkable route wouldn't be possible until the weather and the geology around the site has stabilized. Weather radar indicates Big Sur will be hit hard with rain through Saturday, soaking the steep banks of Highway 1 and possibly exacerbating an already hairy situation.
UPDATED: March 23 at 1pm
A week after a 40-foot section of Highway 1 collapsed, Big Sur businesses continue to struggle with a decrease in the number of customers.
"Our business has slowed down quite dramatically," says Holly Fassett, owner of Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur. "When we'd probably have 100 lunches, we now have 40."
The road closure has impacted not only customers, who would have been able to walk over had it not been closed to pedestrians in addition to vehicles, but also employees who live north of the slide.
"It's been really difficult for our team," says Fassett. "If they can't get here, they might need to file for unemployment."
In the meantime, Fassett will depend on patrons from the south to continue to make the trek.
"We're hoping the road will be fixed soon," she says. "Until then, if people want to try to get here, it's going to take them about four hours."
UPDATED: March 22 at 5:15pm
California Department of Transportation closed a severely damaged section of Highway 1 near Rocky Point to pedestrians and cyclists Monday, despite Big Sur residents’ requests to allow for grocery and pharmaceutical relays.
Jack Ellwanger of PelicanNetwork.net and a Big Sur resident agrees that the situation needs control, but is concerned at the number of non-residents showing up just to get a look at the damaged highway.
“There’s too many non-residents tramping around and that’s not a good situation,” Ellwanger says.
Big Sur residents are in the process of getting a shuttle and relay system going with the help of Cal-Trans, but the weather isn’t helping their cause. The only other options residents living to the south of the slide-out have to access Monterey is the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road—prone to closure itself—and the five-hour commute through Cambria to 101.
“Business sucks,” according to Redwood Grill’s Executive Chef Tommy Noel, “We were just gearing up for spring break and it just died.”
Noel says aside from lack of customers he’s “bummed out at the five-hour drive” he has to make in order for his kids to get to school in Carmel, luckily a host family has taken them in until other arrangements can be made.
Big Sur blogger Kate Woods Novoa reports that Nacimiento-Fergusson Road is accessible thanks to the County of Monterey road crew, but says its not an advised route for travelers due to its dangerously unforgiving nature.
As if things weren't bad enough on Highway 1 there have been a handful of rock slides near Soda Springs and it seems a stretch of the highway between ragged point and the county line is "showing movement in the increasing cracks in the pavement," according to Novoa.
Oakland based contractor Condon-Johnson & Associates has obtained the $2.5 million emergency project bid and is aiming for a temporary repair of Highway 1 slated for completion by April 16.