America's most scenic drive has been devastated -- here are the photos

Big Sur California Highway 1ShutterstockBig Sur, California.

California Highway 1 is the longest route in the state, stretching 655 miles down the coast. The road offers pristine ocean views. Songs have been written in its honour.

But a series of landslides earlier this year swallowed up significant swaths of the highway in and around the ever-popular Big Sur region. A mudslide on May 20 spewed one million tons of rocks and debris onto the highway, as well as the cliff beneath it.

Here’s what the road looked like before (in March) and after (in late May).

The massive landslide wiped out one-third of a mile in an area called Mud Creek, located on the southern end of the Big Sur coast. Early estimates say it will take as much as one year and $US1 billion to clear the rubble and rebuild that patch of Highway 1, The Mercury News reported.

“This is by far the worst we’ve ever seen,” Susana Z. Cruz, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation, told The New York Times in May.

The mudslide was so severe, the damage could be seen from space. NASA’s Earth Observatory released satellite images that capture the devastation in May.

California experienced one of its wettest seasons on record this past year, which made the collapse somewhat predictable — though no less staggering.

Radio station KQED reported that the highland locations around Big Sur received about 117 inches of rain between October 2016 and April 2017. The mountainside was soaked through.

The rain has stopped, but the area remains dangerous. Tourism revenue in Big Sur has stumbled since the slides began earlier this year. Wealthy visitors are being helicoptered in.

Check out these other views of the wreckage.

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