‘Significant’ storm forces Caltrans to close Highway 1 in Big Sur

Caltrans is shutting down Highway 1 in Big Sur ahead of heavy rains expected to batter the Central Coast this week, the agency announced Monday.

The closure, which is at both the Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide areas, goes into effect at noon Monday, Caltrans said in a news release. The agency planned to begin the process of closing the road at 10 a.m.

Caltrans said they hope to reopen the road on the morning of Friday, Jan. 18, once the storm is over, but the road will be closed until further notice.

“Storm activity is forecast through Thursday, Jan. 17,” the agency said. “Caltrans’ geotech, maintenance and construction units are on call and prepared to inspect/clean up when the storm ends, during daylight hours and it is safe to be on site again.”

When Highway 1 closes in the area, gates on either side of Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide are locked and unmanned, Caltrans said.

Once those gates close, no one — not even emergency services or Caltrans employees — will be let through until authorities inspect the area and perform any necessary cleanup.

When both spots are closed, the only access to the stretch of Highway 1 in between is via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road over the coastal mountains to Highway 101.

Each closure is treated separately, which means that the highway at Paul’s Slide could reopen while the Mud Creek side could remain closed, and vice versa.

The closure is part of a new policy for Caltrans. The agency sends out a 48-hour traffic advisory for the Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide areas in advance of major rainfall, so the public has time to make alternate travel plans, obtain supplies and otherwise prepare for a possible closure.

The agency then confirms the closure or releases more information at the 24-hour mark, and then sends out a final update on the day of the expected closure.

The notices only apply to the Paul’s Slide and Mud Creek Slide areas, according to Caltrans.

Since the policy went into effect ahead of this winter, Caltrans has closed and reopened the road multiple times — most recently Jan 6.

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Gabby Ferreira is a breaking news and general assignment reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. A native of Houston, Texas, she was a reporter in Tucson, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Palm Springs, California, before moving to San Luis Obispo County in 2016.