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Slide Snarls Coast Highway

Times Staff Writer

Large rocks, including a 3-foot boulder, cascaded down a cliff and onto Coast Highway in Capistrano Beach on Tuesday afternoon, causing no injuries but forcing authorities to reroute northbound traffic for several hours.

California Highway Patrol officials said the rock slide probably was caused by weekend rains that loosened soil in the 100-foot-high cliff.

The rocks and dirt fell onto the 35200 block of Camino Capistrano, which parallels Pacific Coast Highway, at about 4:40 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said.

The slide was first reported by CHP Officer Mark Masai, who was driving north on the highway and spotted the debris blocking both northbound lanes.

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The largest of the rocks was a boulder about 3 feet in diameter, and near it were an assortment of smaller rocks and compacted dirt. Some residents along Camino Capistrano peered down from their yards overlooking the highway, but their property apparently was unaffected by the slide.

CHP officers blocked off the area with flares and traffic cones and diverted northbound traffic into southbound lanes. The diversion caused few traffic problems, CHP officials said.

“We’re lucky it happened so late because there’s not a lot of traffic going through right now,” Masai noted.

Except for the one large boulder, Masai said, the debris was mainly “just compressed dirt and slate,” adding: “I think it broke off (from the cliff) because the rains last week were pretty heavy. If this were solid rock, it wouldn’t have fallen.”

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By 9 p.m., a CHP dispatcher said the debris had been removed and traffic was restored to normal.

All that remained was a dark scar in the side of the cliff where the rocks and debris had come loose.


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