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By Eric Heinz

Updated at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18

The city of San Clemente late on Saturday night, Feb. 16, said that the portion of N. El Camino Real between Avenida Pico and Camino Capistrano had been reopened but issued a cautionary statement about driving along the highway. 

Where the landslide took place, about the 203 rail marker, has been bordered on the east side of the highway by cement barriers, blocking the pedestrian walkway. The city said it’s uncertain of the earth and material that slid down the bluff on Feb. 13 could move further.

Original story

Large amounts of soil and minerals burst through a concrete barrier Wednesday, Feb. 13, at about the 203 rail marker along the east side of N. El Camino. The earth had covered the pedestrian walkway and bicycle lands on the east side and threatened to spill into the highway.

City officials around 11:30 announced that the segment of the highway between Pico and Capistrano would be closed until at least tomorrow.

Tom Bonigut, the city of San Clemente Public Works director and engineer, said because the bluffs are environmentally protected, the city can’t start shoveling the dirt and repairing the barrier immediately. Bonigut was on scene shortly after the city announced the closure on Twitter.

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“I’m going to have to let it pretty much spill into the roadway and then clean it up later,” Bonigut said. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen with the rain coming.”

Minutes after he said that, the expected downpour began.

The city sent out a second press release just before 12:45 p.m.

“The road will be temporarily closed to all motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians until a geotechnical engineer can evaluate the severity and impact of the landslide,” the release stated. “It is expected that the road will be closed through tomorrow, February 14, 2019. If you are headed south on Pacific Coast Highway, please use Camino Capistrano. If you are headed north on El Camino Real, please use Avenida Pico to the I-5 Freeway. If the closure continues, information will be posted through subsequent press releases, on the City’s website and social media.”

The city can be followed on Twitter at @CitySanClemente. 

City officials survey the damage of a landslide that broke through a cement barrier on Wednesday, Feb. 13, along N. El Camino Real at the 203 marker. The city expects the road to be closed through tomorrow. Photo: Eric Heinz
City officials survey the damage of a landslide that broke through a concrete barrier on Wednesday, Feb. 13, along N. El Camino Real at the 203 rail marker. The city expects the road to be closed through tomorrow. Photo: Eric Heinz

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the landslide, which affected about 50 feet of the barrier and pathways, but the amount of rain seen in South Orange County recently has been plentiful.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the area and predicted about 2 to 3 inches of rain over within the next day and a half.

Motorists are advised to seek alternative routes around the affected area. City officials said they will continue to update the situation with press releases. Follow @SCTimesNews on Twitter for the most immediate updates.

This is a developing story. More information will be provided when it becomes available. 

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