Drivers inch along single lane due to collapse of part of iconic California Highway 1

BIG SUR, Calif. — Motorists were moving slowly along a scenic stretch of California’s iconic Highway 1 on Monday after a large portion of it fell into the ocean due to heavy weekend rains, leaving up to 1,600 people stranded in the coastal community of Big Sur.

Convoys of vehicles started at 8 a.m. Monday for one lane of the highway, with most of the trapped individuals allowed to leave when a single lane reopened on Sunday after being closed overnight, according to Kevin Drabinski, a spokesperson for the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.

“During the convoys passing through, we have observers on site monitoring the condition of the roadway to ensure it is safe for travel,” Drabinski said.

The collapse happened on Saturday near Rocky Creek Bridge, about 17 miles (27 kilometers) south of Monterey, causing traffic to back up for miles in both directions.

Kirk Gafill, the manager of Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur, mentioned that around a dozen of his employees working that day were stuck in town and had to find accommodations with friends or family for the night.

Many businesses in Big Sur faced a similar situation, he added.

The Big Sur Lodge opened its conference room to provide shelter for some stranded motorists, while others spent the night in their vehicles.

Linda Molinari from Hollister, California shared with Fresno’s KFSN-TV that she and her boyfriend ended up sleeping in his van after visiting Big Sur for lunch on Saturday.

Another convoy of vehicles was escorted through at 4 p.m. Monday, but motorists were advised to avoid the area, with the next convoy scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Caltrans mentioned that crews will be installing concrete barriers to create a safe lane for vehicles and protect construction workers. Engineers will be working on stabilizing the edge of the roadway, although the timeline for reopening the road is not yet clear.

The famous Highway 1 has experienced frequent closures due to collapses, mudflows, and rockslides during severe weather conditions.

Road workers were fortunate to have a break from the heavy rains over the weekend, with dry weather anticipated for the coming days and only a slight chance of light rain on Thursday, as per Dalton Behringer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Bay Area.