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Crews clear trees, mud and debris from site of Hwy 1 washout in Big Sur

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Posted at 10:21 AM, Feb 12, 2021

(KSBY) — Crews are working seven days a week during the daylight hours where a section of Highway 1 in Big Sur was washed away.

Part of the road at Rat Creek, 30 miles north of the San Luis Obispo County line, collapsed during January's big storm.

Hundreds of trees are being cleared, along with debris that washed down the creek from the Dolan Fire burn scar.

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Crews clear storm debris from Rat Creek in Big Sur on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. In late January, a winter storm caused a debris flow that rushed down the creek, washing out a section of Highway 1.

"Driving up here, the damage that you can see and how much has already been cleaned up and we're just two weeks removed," said Victor Deven, Caltrans District 5 Major Damage Coordinator.

On Thursday, Jan. 28, one lane washed away and Caltrans entered into a $5 million emergency contract. By the next day, both lanes were gone, leaving a 150-foot chasm in the roadway.

If you're trying to drive north along Highway 1, the farthest you can go is Pacific Valley or mile marker 16.

"We hope by the 22nd of February to bring it up to post mile 27 which would be three miles south of Rat Creek," said Kevin Drabinski, Caltrans District 5 spokesperson.

RELATED: Portion of California's Hwy 1 along Big Sur coast washed away in storm

On the other side, all of Big Sur is open with a road closure a couple of miles north of where the road gave way.

Meanwhile, with the road closure in place, workers are clearing other spots along Highway 1 that were also impacted by the storm.

At the main washout, assessment is underway.

In Rat Creek itself, when the debris flow came through, the mud made its way about 20 feet up a 60-foot tree.

"Rat Creek is an ephemeral creek," Drabinski explained. "It runs underground most of the year so this was a place that back in the '30s they decided to fill in and put a road over it."

The 66-inch culvert on the hillside did not work this time due to the major debris flow.

Looking ahead, there are a couple of options for what's next.

"Whether or not to take a space and fill it with dirt and put the highway over or whether to construct a bridge," Drabinski said.

The data from the ongoing assessment will determine the final option and cost.

As of right now, there's no estimated timeframe for when the highway will reopen.