Caltrans officials have been continually assessing conditions on Highway 1 over the past few days to determine if another preemptive closure would be prudent at two landslide-prone locations south of Big Sur as another winter storm took aim at the North Coast on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 4.
Caltrans spokeswoman Susana Cruz said Tuesday that, “for now,” the predicted storm wasn’t deemed “significant enough” to warrant locking the gates at Paul’s Slide and Mud Creek, as the state road agency did for public-safety reasons Wednesday, Nov. 28 through noon Friday, Nov. 30.
When the unmanned gates are locked because of an increased likelihood of damaging landslides, nobody can get through, not even law enforcers, emergency services or Caltrans crews.
Catastrophic previous landslides at those two areas and others along the 100-mile stretch kept the All-American Highway and scenic byway closed for more than a year in 2016 and 2017. It reopened for through traffic in July.
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PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey’s forecast for the incoming weather system midday Tuesday predicted “bands of rain showers” and southerly winds of up to 38 mph by Wednesday morning. He estimated the rain, which might continue into Thursday morning, could produce between 0.50 and 1.25 inches of precipitation.
While the rain forecast for San Luis Obispo County won’t quite match what the area got last week — more than four inches in some places — it’ll still be a decent amount. About a half-inch to 1.25 inches of rain is expected, Lindsey said.
“The more rain we get, the better,” Lindsey said.
While the skies will clear up heading into the weekend, longer-range models suggest wet weather may be headed to the Central Coast again next week, Lindsey said.
Meanwhile, Cal Fire crews were taking advantage of the weather conditions to burn some of the hundreds of forest-debris stacks in the Leimert, Pine Knolls and other areas of Cambria. Crews had collected the woody fire fuels to reduce the risk of raging wildfire in the area, and to improve conditions should an evacuation be necessary.
The prescribed fire treatment for the overgrown forest areas and widespread invasive French broom previously had drawn considerable complaints and concerns from area neighbors.
Prior to the resumed burn procedures that began Tuesday, Cal Fire’s North Coast Battalion Chief Greg Alex and forester Alan Peters had communicated several times with those worried people, elaborating further on the process and precautions.
That communication apparently was appreciated. In a Dec. 3 email to Peters, previously critical area resident Glynda Hoskins wrote, “I cannot thank you enough for opening up the burn plans with our neighborhood. Knowing what your plan and intent (are) beforehand will now allow us to know ahead of time what will be happening and will let us be more involved and informed.”
Lindsey said that, within 48 hours, the late-November storm dumped from nearly 2 inches to about 4 inches of rain on various North Coast locations.
Stiff winds toppled some trees during the storm, according to people nearby who heard them crash down. Remarkably enough, no serious, storm-related emergency incidents were reported to the Cambria Fire Department, according to officials there.
Tribune reporter Gabby Ferreira contributed to this report.