Strong winds lead to cancellation of Hearst Castle tours

Wind gusts of up to 60 mph today pose dangerous conditions for visitors and the buses they ride in up the hill to Hearst Castle, so the popular tourist attraction is closed to tours.

The area was drenched with 1.6 inches of rain from 5 to 10 a.m., according to spokesman Dan Eller. He said rain and wind were continuing and intensifying as of late morning.

Hearst Castle Visitor Center and Hearst Castle National Geographic Theater remain open, so people who arrive to find their tours canceled still can learn about the former estate of media magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Eller said the State Park’s first tour of the day went up as scheduled at 8:20 a.m. Only 16 people were aboard the tour bus, which can hold 53 visitors.

At 9:15 a.m., based on consistent winds of 45 mph and the peak gusts, and the number of fallen tree limbs on the access road and on Castle grounds, management closed the park for the day, Eller said.

There were about 400 tour reservations for today, and Eller said those visitors would be given the option of taking a refund or booking another tour for a different day, after the storm moderates.

The Castle doesn’t close during lesser rainstorms. It last closed for the day due to a storm in January 2008.

This storm is expected to continue through Wednesday, but the intensity should moderate after tonight, according to forecasts from John Lindsey, Diablo Canyon meteorologist.

— Kathe Tanner