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‘We’ve seen this a lot through the years’: Big Sur businesses feel impact of Highway 1 rockslides

A rockslide covers Highway 1 just two miles south of Ragged Point.
A rockslide covers Highway 1 just two miles south of Ragged Point.

Big Sur businesses are seeing the impact of a Highway 1 closure right now after a rockslide covered the road Sunday.

These rockslides happen all the time. Most are small and get cleared in a matter of hours. But some bigger rockslides can shut down Highway 1 for days and months. Many remember the massive Mud Creek slide in 2017 that shut down the highway for more than a year.

Alicia Hahn is the manager of Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur that's been in operation since 1949. She said the restaurant is used to dealing with these kinds of rock and mudslides, but it’s still difficult for business.

“When we lost the bridge and we had the big closure to the south, it’s a tremendous impact," Hahn said. "Our philosophy has always been to do our best to stay open as much as possible.”

Hahn said long-term road closures are the most difficult to deal with. She said the current closure from just north of San Simeon to Ragged Point is causing visitors to reroute their trips, but it’s nothing new. Hahn said the restaurant is still getting business.

“We’ve seen this a lot through the years," Hahn said. "We are well-versed on Highway 1 and, this particular closure, I feel pretty confident will get cleaned up pretty quick.”

Ragged Point Inn told KCBX News they are consistently operating at about 25 percent capacity because of long term and intermittent road closures.

The Inn said they were offering free cancellations for anyone unable to keep their stay due to the road closure.

Nick Balla is the head chef at Big Sur Coast Gallery cafe. He said he sees little rock slides almost every day on his drive to work that get cleared quickly.

Balla said they expected fewer customers yesterday, but ended up being surprised by the amount of business.

“It’s been consistently busy all day. We’ve not seen a dip in traffic even with the road closed and the weather and everything else,” Balla said.

Caltrans representative Jim Shivers said rain and movement of the rockslide delayed cleanup yesterday, but they’re used to dealing with this kind of issue.

“What we’re doing on Highway 1 is pretty typical. It happens every year," Shivers said. "You can certainly count on rockslides to occur in various locations of varying sizes.”

Caltrans has a number of features, like retaining walls and rock netting, in place along the highway to help mitigate the potential for rockslides.

As of Monday evening, there was still no estimated time for reopening. Although, Shivers said the parameters of the closure can change on a daily basis.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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