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A landslide closed down California’s scenic Route 1 in Monterey County and it remains unclear when the road may reopen

Massive California landslide visible from space


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, May 28, 2017, 11:45 AM - The massive landslide that buried a half-kilometre stretch of California's famous Highway 1 was so enormous, NASA satellites had no trouble spotting it from space.

NASA has released several before-and-after images of the area, near Big Sur, captured by instruments aboard the agency's Landsat 8 satellite on April 20 and May 22 respectively. 

The release also includes a third shot of the highway after it experienced a smaller landslide prior to the headline-grabbing one of last weekend. That smaller slide happened May 17, captured by European Space Agency's Sentinel-2 satellite.

Here's the comparison:

"This is a large slide preceded by smaller slides, which is not uncommon,” NASA geologist Thomas Stanley said, in a release included with the images on NASA's Earth Observatory website. "Much of the California coastline is prone to collapse, so it’s fortunate that this landslide happened in an unpopulated location."

Below: Before-and-after slider of the buried highway

The long-term closure of that stretch of Highway 1 will be a blow to tourism. People chasing the laid-back West Coast lifestyle may very well have had their first taste of it on California's famed scenic Highway 1.

The route winds its way along the Pacific coast, steep hills on one side, boundless ocean on the other, featuring in numerous films and offering travellers a fine view as they explore the state. However, those same hills have turned against the highway, aided by some of the rainiest weather the once drought-stricken region has seen in years.

BELOW: Aerial view of the stricken highway

Crews were actually working in the area on a previous slide triggered by the recent heavy rains, before pulling equipment out when evidence suggested another slide was coming, according to CNN. 

"I think it's safe to say it will be several months before it reopens," Caltrans spokesman Colin Jones told The Independent.

Caltrans had previously estimated damage to travel infrastructure in the state due to landslides and other weather-triggered disasters had totalled $1.3 billion, according to the L.A. Times, which said that figure did not include the latest slip.

WATCH BELOW: Landslide swallows road, and everything else

After years of drought, California's weather has really overcompensated this season, with record amounts of rain and snow in some areas.

Aside from that stretch of highway, other major infrastructure that has suffered damage includes the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, also on Highway 1, which had to be demolished after it cracked due to a landslide hitting one of its supporting struts.

Binghamton.com says the demolition, and a new bridge set to be complete by September, will end up costing around $26 million.

Another infrastructure failure that made headlines within the last few months was the Oroville Dam, where a spillway designed to divert excess floodwater was badly eroded, compromising its flood management ability.

The resulting crisis saw some 188,000 people forced to evacuate their homes, returning four days later when the rain eased and floodwaters dropped. 

Binghamton.com says repairs to the spillway continue, though the state will borrow up to $500 million to finance them.

WATCH BELOW: California Road Buckles After Landslide

SOURCES: CNN | L.A. Times | Binghamton.com | NASA Earth Observatory

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