Big Sur urged to evacuate as another storm approaches

California officials temporarily closed a stretch of Interstate 1 on Wednesday and warned residents to evacuate one of the nation’s most scenic stretches of coast as an oncoming spring rain threatened to worsen a road collapse near Big Sur.

Emergency Orders, issued by Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and California Department of Transportationit came as state and local governments struggled to recover from last weekend’s landslide that collapsed a sizable portion of Highway 1 after days of heavy rainfall.

The so-called slip-out, which overnight stranded more than a thousand drivers along the famous state highway, was the product of winter storms that saturated California for months. The collapse sent huge chunks of pavement crashing into the Pacific Ocean north of Big Sur and narrowed nearly two miles of road to one lane.

For the past several days, state transportation officials have urged drivers to avoid the area and use caution for local and emergency traffic around the missing stretch of freeway. Jim Shivers, a spokesman for the state transportation agency, known as Caltrans, said the twice-daily convoys averaged about 150 vehicles in each direction per day.

But with rain expected to return Thursday and Friday, Caltrans has canceled convoys through Friday.

“They’re only expecting about half an inch, but we don’t want to take any chances,” Mr. Shivers said. “It’s the end of the wet rainy season, so any additional moisture can cause additional landslide or mudslide activity.”

The move prompted local authorities to urge about 2,000 people who live in the Big Sur area year-round to leave before the rains fall, especially if they had medical needs.

Big Sur, loosely defined, is a 70-mile stretch of Central Coast roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles that is known for both its spectacular beauty and its vulnerability. Located on the edge of the continent, it is increasingly beset by climate disasters from wildfires to landslides, its main artery being Highway 1, which precariously hugs the coast.

When the highway is blocked, residents often live long periods in relative isolation; the highway was closed for months after a massive landslide in 2017, and sections are still being repaired from storm surges last year.

On Wednesday, residents and businesses prepared to leave again.

“We’re warm-hearted people,” said Colin Twohig, general manager of the Big Sur River Inn, which is just south of the current road closure and “foggy in the middle” of the evacuation advisory area. “People have had a chance all week to stock up and stock up, and almost everyone I’ve talked to is ready to hang on.”

However, he pointed out, the past week represented a significant economic disruption. He and the 22-room inn’s managing partner, Ben Perlmutter, said they spent the past few days they are hastily revising their website to facilitate general store sales and organize community dinners to keep spirits up and avoid wasting the perishables they have prepared for the Easter weekend.

They were canceling reservations on Wednesday and hoping their prospects would improve by the weekend.

“We’re one of the few family businesses left in Big Sur,” said Mr. Perlmutter, who added that his father, 91, a general partner, went to a hotel in Monterey on Sunday for health reasons. “I’m not saying this out of pity, but if the road doesn’t open up, it’s unlikely this will be a family business in six months.”

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