New slide closes Hwy. 1 in Big Sur as rain continues to soak SLO County

San Luis Obispo Creek is flowing, thanks to spring storms

The rains in the beginning of March 2018 have brought a healthy flow of water to San Luis Obispo Creek.
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The rains in the beginning of March 2018 have brought a healthy flow of water to San Luis Obispo Creek.

The storm that moved through the Central Coast on Tuesday packed less of a punch than expected, but it was enough to cause a new landslide that closed Highway 1 in Big Sur.

County locations saw between a third and more than 2 inches, though previous forecasts had predicted heavier amounts.

San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport reported 0.31 inches and Cal Poly got 0.51 inches as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, according to John Lindsey. Paso Robles received 0.28 inches, Cambria saw 1.46 inches, Arroyo Grande recorded 0.41 inches and Rocky Butte received 2.56 inches.

Previous forecasts predicted rainfall as great as 0.70 inches per hour, exceeding the threshold for debris flows.

In advance of the storm, the National Weather Service announced a flash flood watch for communities in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and officials ordered mandatory evacuations for communities affected by the Thomas, Sherpa, Whittier and Alamo fire burn areas.

By 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the flash flood watch was canceled and the evacuation orders were lifted.

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A truck runs through water on 4th Street between Grover Beach and Oceano on Tuesday. David Middlecamp

Slide on Highway 1

On Highway 1, the wet weather caused a new slide that closed the road 3 miles south of Lucia.

The Chimney Slide 20 miles north of the Monterey County line will keep the highway closed there overnight, CaltransCaltrans Public Information Officer Susana Cruz wrote in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

Cruz said the situation would be reassessed Wednesday morning.

Stan Russell of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce described the closure in an email as "a small landslide ... just south of Limekiln State Park."

"There are some boulders on the roadway," he wrote, "so they will have to determine if the asphalt needs repair once the boulders are removed. Rain is expected to continue through the week, so this can complicate cleanup and possibly create new slippage. "

A toll-free hotline is available to check road conditions at 888-836-0866, Russell said.

The slide comes less than a week after Caltrans workers at the huge Mud Creek Slide said weather remained a key factor in reopening the road there on schedule late this summer. A dry winter got wetter when 4.5 inches of rain fell there nearly two weeks ago, and the Central Coast is in the midst of a series of forecast storms.

Last year's wet winter produced not only the Mud Creek Slide on May 20, but also Paul's Slide, which closed down another section of highway before reopening to alternating one-way traffic in July.

Scenes from Oceano and Pismo Beach as rain fell in SLO County, California, on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Looking ahead

Showers will continue on Wednesday, and winds are forecast to be "strong to gale-force" with speeds ranging from 25 to 38 mph, Lindsey said. Showers are predicted to continue.

The rain will clear up on Thursday; skies are forecast to be partly cloudy and winds at speeds ranging from 19 to 38 mph predicted, according to Lindsey.

The next wave arrives on Friday when a a cold front moving through the area will bring "moderate to fresh" winds that will range between 13 to 24 mph, with moderate rain. Saturday and Sunday are expected to be partly cloudy with areas of fog and mist, Lindsey said.

Another series of storms is predicted to move through the area beginning Monday through next Thursday, Lindsey said, bringing moderate to heavy rain and periods of gale-force winds.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF
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