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BREAKING: Twice-daily convoys out of Big Sur move to new schedule effective April 10

The washout damage on southbound Highway 1 at Palo Colorado as of March 30, 2024. Just under half of the highway has fallen away.
California Highway Patrol
Monterey County Facebook
The washout damage on southbound Highway 1 at Palo Colorado as of March 30, 2024.

Update, Tuesday, Apr. 9, 10:55 a.m.:

Starting Wednesday, Apr. 10, the twice-daily convoys that are currently the only way in or out of the Big Sur region, after last month's slip out at Highway 1 near the Rocky Creek Bridge, will shift to a 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. schedule.

Previously, the convoys were at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. They lead vehicles northbound first, southbound second.

County spokesperson Nicholas Pasculli said in a press release the change was made "after consultations with community stakeholders and in collaboration with the Monterey County Department of Emergency Management."

He also emphasized that the convoys are for local residents and essential workers.

"Limiting the volume of vehicles through the repair site is one strategy which is helping manage the risks associated with conditions at the slip out and with emergency response," his Tuesday update reads.

With forecasted rain on the horizon for later this week, the convoys could potentially be suspended. The county will share an update on their status on Wednesday.

Update, Monday, Apr. 8, 10:03 p.m.:

As of Monday afternoon, the Monterey County Sheriff's Office has lifted the evacuation warning for Big Sur communities south of the Rocky Creek slip out.

On Apr. 6, twice-daily convoys on the one remaining lane of Highway 1 resumed at 8 a.m. Repair work at the site of the slip out continues, and in a press release announcing the lifted warning, Monterey County spokesperson Maia Carroll recommended visitors continue to avoid the area.

"Daily Caltrans convoys may be suspended due to storms or changes in site safety," the statement reads.

In the release, Carroll also encouraged residents to maintain "adequate supplies of medications and medical equipment" in case of potential convoy suspensions that could impact emergency medical transportation and access to hospitals beyond the slip out.

Update, Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2:39 p.m.:

The evacuation warning for communities south of the Rocky Creek Bridge in Big Sur, where the southbound lane of Highway 1 crumbled into the ocean over the weekend, remains in place. Residents will be isolated from Thursday to Friday, when the twice-daily convoys that currently serve as the only means in or out of the region will be canceled due to forecasted storms.

Carmel Unified School District superintendent Shannon Ofek said Apple Pie Preschool and Captain Cooper Elementary will both be closed Thursday and Friday due to the road closure and evacuation warning.

“Please call Captain Cooper as soon as possible at 831-667-2452 to notify the office that you are dependent upon the convoy to pick your child up for school,” Ofek wrote in a press release.

Carmel Middle School and Carmel High School will remain open, and Ofek encouraged students of either school staying in Big Sur to communicate with their teachers about completing missed work and assignments.

Convoys are expected to resume Saturday at 8 a.m., according to Caltrans District 5 spokesperson Kevin Drabinski.

“That’s our intent, that’s our hope,” he said. “Should we examine the site and there be any concerns, we’ll of course broadcast that to the community.”

He said at a press briefing Wednesday afternoon that Caltrans crews have already expanded space on the northbound lane of Highway 1 where the slip out occurred.

At the 8 a.m. convoy Wednesday morning, 157 vehicles exited northbound and 165 came southbound. The 4 p.m. convoy Wednesday afternoon is the last opportunity for people to leave before a full road closure.

Update, Wednesday, Apr. 3, 10:51 a.m.:

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation warning Wednesday morning for areas of the Big Sur community south of the Highway 1 Rocky Creek slip out to the Dolan Slide due to forecasted showers and thunderstorms.

In a press release, county spokesperson Maia Carroll encouraged residents to evacuate via Highway 1 to the north during the 4 p.m. Wednesday convoy.

After that convoy leaves, a full closure will be in effect at the Rocky Creek slip out “until the weather event passes through the area.” She added that the storms may cause additional damage to the highway.

“If you feel unsafe, medically fragile or are unprepared to be isolated for several days, leave immediately,” her statement said.

Emergency medical services may be unable to evacuate patients beyond the road closures, meaning anyone experiencing an emergency medical condition may be unable to leave the area to access hospitals or medical services.

“Medically fragile individuals are encouraged to gather their medications along with any needed medical equipment and evacuate the area,” the statement reads.

More information can be found on the county’s website page dedicated to the Rocky Creek slip out. Sign up for Monterey County emergency alerts on the county website.

Previous story (updated Monday, April 1):

This is a revision of an earlier live blog post from Saturday, March 30, found here.

Early Sunday afternoon, Caltrans District 5 said engineers have greenlighted travel in the northbound lane under close supervision.

That's after the transportation agency and Monterey County officials announced a Highway 1 closure between Palo Colorado to just south of the Rocky Creek Bridge on Saturday evening, due to a washout after heavy rains.

"It [the roadway] was static and it hadn't continued to erode into the northbound lane, which was a grave concern for us," Caltrans District 5 spokesperson Kevin Drabinski said during a Monterey County press briefing Monday.

A convoy started at 12 p.m. Sunday to allow for vehicle passage in the northbound direction. After vehicles were cleared in that direction, a convoy led vehicles southbound at 4 p.m.

Approximately 300 vehicles came through the 12 p.m. convoy.

Monterey County communications director Nicholas Pasculli told KAZU he recommends anyone seeking to leave or enter the area go to the Rocky Creek Bridge area as soon as possible to join the convoys. Only residents with proof of residency will be allowed to be part of the convoys, and anyone who doesn't need to be in the area is urged to stay away.

“It’s going to be a slow process, but we are trying to get the people out of there right now that need to get out, and the residents that may have been trapped on the north side to get back to their loved ones and their homes,” he said.

Two Caltrans District 5 engineers stand on an empty, blocked-off Highway 1, looking at where part of the road fell into the ocean. Just under half of a small section of the road is missing.
California Highway Patrol
Monterey County Facebook
Caltrans District 5 engineers assess the Highway 1 washout damage on March 30, 2024.

Starting Apr. 1, convoys daily — at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. — will continue to lead vehicles through the slip out area in the same travel pattern: northbound first, southbound second.

On Apr. 4 and 5, Drabinski told KAZU, "it's likely that we will suspend those ... due to the forecast for rain."

Caltrans crews will be on site to ensure travel runs smoothly, the press release confirmed. Besides the convoy travel, Highway 1 remains closed at Palo Colorado.

Resources available for stranded motorists, residents

The California Highway Patrol, Pasculli said, estimates between 1,500 to 2,500 people have been impacted by the washout.

Monterey County has put together an information page on the current status of the incident, road closures and resources.

And the Big Sur Lodge conference room is still open for stranded motorists who can’t leave to the north due to the road damage, though that is beginning to wind down as residents and visitors are able to leave the area. About 1,600 people made use of the lodge's emergency shelter on Saturday.

“The residents of Big Sur are remarkably resilient,” Pasculli said. “They provide volunteers for situations like this, [and] the county is grateful that we have such resilient, strong residents in that area that step up to help other people in their time of need, which is very, very gratifying.”

There is no shelter-in-place order, he added.

Big Sur fire chief Matt Harris said during Sunday afternoon's briefing that plans remain in place to mitigate any emergency, "fire, rescue or medical."

"Last night, even through the closure, we had two medical calls — we actually wheeled the gurney across the slot of the closure area to a waiting ambulance for transport to the hospital," Harris said. "So we adapt and overcome."

The county is currently asking tourists and anyone who does not need to be in Big Sur to remain out of the area.

“We do not need any more traffic down in that area, and we urge them to stay out,” he said.

Six local hotels have offered to help impacted travelers and residents per the county website — call to receive more information on rates and pet policies:

  • Monterey Hyatt: 1 Old Golf Course Rd, Monterey, 831-372-1234
  • Portola Hotel: Two Portola Plaza, Monterey, 831-649-4511
  • Monterey Mariott: 350 Calle Principal, Monterey, 831-649-4234
  • Monterey Plaza Hotel: 400 Cannery Row, Monterey, 877-862-7552
  • Embassy Suites: 1441 Canyon Del Rey Blvd, Seaside, 831-393-1115
  • Carmel Mission Inn: 3665 Rio Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, 831-624-1841

As of Sunday afternoon, Rob O'Keefe with See Monterey said those rates are still available.
The Monterey County Free Library Big Sur location is currently closed, but Wi-Fi is on and usable from the parking lot if needed.

Other Highway 1 closures near Big Sur remain

As for other parts of Highway 1, the road is open from north of the Dolan Creek Bridge to south of the Rocky Creek Bridge.

Jim Shivers, spokesperson for Caltrans District 5, also confirmed Big Sur is open between the north and south closure points.

Those are between the current north and south closure points at Lime Creek and just south of Limekiln State Park, and that closure is from three slidescaused by previous storms.

Drabinski from Caltrans District 5 said the washout at Palo Colorado "came as a surprise" but said it was the nature of Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast.

"It's a geologically active range of mountains, and when water percolates through the dirt after range, it's seeking its lowest source," he said. "That makes the ground heavier and lubricates it. So it's not unusual to see flight activity, in the springtime of the year."

Caltrans engineers began assessing the damage in the area Saturday night. On the agency’s site, the closure is currently listed as “long-term”, with no definite end date.

A screenshot of the Caltrans website showing a report generated with current Highway 1 closures in Monterey County on March 30, 2024, as of 9:03 p.m. There are two closures shown, one between Limekiln Creek and Lime Creek Bridge that's slide removal and long-term, and another at Palo Colorado that began March 30, 2024 at 5:01 p.m. designated as emergency work.
A screenshot of the Caltrans website showing a report generated with current Highway 1 closures in Monterey County on March 30, 2024, as of 9:03 p.m.

Road information and updates can also be found on the Caltrans District 5 social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

You can view highway conditions at theCaltrans QuickMap (also visible onthe Caltrans app) or call 1-800-427-7623 for road information.

Sign up for Monterey County emergency alerts viathe county’s website.

This is a developing story and will continue to be updated.

Scott Cohn and Jerimiah Oetting contributed reporting.

Janelle Salanga is a reporter for KAZU. Prior to joining the station, they covered Sacramento communities and helped start the SacramenKnow newsletter at CapRadio.
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