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Motorists creep along 1 lane after part of California’s iconic Highway 1 collapses

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) — Motorists crept along one lane of a scenic stretch of California’s iconic Highway 1 on Monday after a giant chunk of it collapsed into the ocean following heavy weekend rains, stranding as many as 1,600 people in the coastal community of Big Sur.

Convoys of vehicles resumed at 8 a.m. Monday for one lane of the highway, although most of the people trapped in Big Sur were allowed to leave when a single lane was reopened Sunday after being closed overnight, said Kevin Drabinski, a spokesperson for the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.

“During the time the convoys are passing, we physically have observers on sight to put eyes on the condition of the roadway to make sure it’s still safe to travel,” Drabinski said.

The collapse occurred Saturday near Rocky Creek Bridge about 17 miles (27 kilometers) south of Monterey, and traffic backed up for miles in both directions.

Kirk Gafill, the manager of Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur, said about a dozen of his employees who were working that day were trapped in town and had to find friends or family members to spend the night with.

“That’s probably true for every business in Big Sur,” he said.

The Big Sur Lodge opened its conference room to offer some trapped motorists a place to stay, while others spent the night in their vehicles.

Linda Molinari of Hollister, California, told Fresno’s KFSN-TV that she and her boyfriend ended up sleeping in his van after they went to lunch in Big Sur on Saturday.

“It was really hard when the firefighters said, ‘Oh, you get to sleep here tonight,’” Molinari told the station on Easter Sunday after they returned home. “It’s amazing to get home, but still bittersweet. You missed a holiday from just trying to go to lunch on a random day.”

Another convoy of vehicles was escorted through at 4 p.m. Monday, but motorists were urged to avoid the area. The next convoy was scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Caltrans said crews will start installing concrete barriers to provide a safe lane for vehicles and to protect construction workers. Engineers will focus on stabilizing the edge of the roadway, but it’s not immediately clear when the road will be ready to reopen.

The famous route has seen frequent closures because of collapses, mudflows and rockslides during severe weather.

Road workers got a break from the heavy rains that fell over the weekend, with dry conditions expected for the next several days and just a chance for light rain on Thursday, said Dalton Behringer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Bay Area.

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