BIG SUR — A week after a red flag warning for Big Sur residents expired, many of them were ordered to evacuate Tuesday due to the atmospheric river and the high likelihood of debris flows in and near the area burned by the Dolan Fire.
Monterey County upgraded an evacuation warning to an evacuation order for people in five zones near the Dolan Fire burn scar Tuesday afternoon, warning those in the area that danger is imminent and people should leave the area immediately.
“Due to the nature of the storm and for the safety of first responders and work crews, those who live in or in close proximity to the burn scars should leave during daylight hours,” stated a news release from the Sheriff’s Office. “Once the storm begins, debris flows may occur faster than first responders can notify you or respond. Additionally, it may be unsafe for first responders to get to you or they may be unable to access roads due to downed lines and fallen burned/dead trees.”
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service said the storm could be the biggest since January 2017, when parts of the Santa Lucia Range above Big Sur received upwards of 28 inches of rain in a week. The weather service forecast expects the storm to stall over Monterey County, with the Santa Lucia Range squeezing moisture out of the atmospheric river. The forecast calls for 10-14 inches of precipitation for the Santa Lucia Range between Tuesday and Thursday.
The weather service warned that the Dolan, Carmel and River fire burn areas will be of great concern for mud and debris flow issues. Evacuation warnings remain in place for areas in and near the Carmel and River fire burn scars. Visit co.monterey.ca.us/winterstorm for a map of evacuation zones.
“Even without (the burn scars) this is the type of event that usually causes numerous rock and mudslides along Highway 1,” the National Weather Service’s area forecast discussion stated. “Residents of Big Sur should be prepared for extended periods of isolation.”
While Caltrans will not preemptively close Highway 1 at Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide like it did the past two winters, the state transportation agency decided to close the coastal roadway at the request of the California Highway Patrol in support of Monterey County’s evacuation order.
The closure, running from 5 p.m. Tuesday and expected to remain in effect until Thursday, is being done to minimize travel into Big Sur to allow residents and businesses to evacuate in the safest conditions possible.
“(The closure) is out of an abundance of caution, to just create those conditions where there’s not a lot of traffic and everybody’s got as safe a route as possible to leave the area,” said Kevin Drabinski, a public information officer for Caltrans District 5.
Highway 1 will close in the south at Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County, about 1.5 miles south of the Monterey County border, and at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn (mile marker 42.1) to the north.
Drabinski said Caltrans deployed additional resources to the Big Sur Coast during the Dolan Fire to augment its normal winter preparation.
“We’ve done a lot in terms of trying to keep culverts and drainage infrastructure open,” he said. “This is especially true in areas affected by the Dolan Fire burn scar.”
Caltrans crews will monitor Highway 1 through the storm to ensure conditions are safe for those evacuating and will assess the condition of the roadway when it is safe during daylight hours after the storm moves through before reopening the highway.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, which often closes as a precaution before major storms, shut down to the public Monday for scheduled tree maintenance and removals. It is currently scheduled to reopen Friday. Jacks Peak Park in Monterey closed Tuesday due to inclement weather and high winds.
Go to alertmontereycounty.org to sign up for emergency alerts or text “MCWINTER” to 888777 to receive text message alerts. Monterey County recommends those in evacuation areas with large animals contact SPCA Monterey County at 831-373-2631 for help.
Contributed by local news sources