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Emergency access roads in Cambria eroding

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Posted at 6:20 PM, Mar 15, 2023

Due to Cambria’s location on the north coast of San Luis Obispo County, it’s easy for neighborhoods or even the entire community to become an island when they receive heavy rainfall.

“Due to slides across Highway 1, we’re typically cut off from the north and then Morro Bay experiencing some severe flooding on Highway 1, we can get cut off from the south," said Chief Justin Vincent, Cambria Fire Department.

And it only takes a mudslide, a car accident, or a downed tree on Highway 46 to fully sever ties from all access points.

“We can potentially become an island without help being able to come in or out. We’re kind of on our own and have to become resilient,” Chief Vincent said.

Though the community itself can get cut off, there are neighborhoods within Cambria that can become even smaller islands — and the emergency access roads used to reach those residents in case of an emergency are in need of repair.

In the past, Marlborough Lane has been open to residents who were isolated for short periods of time.

“I think there’s somewhat of a misunderstanding that that road is not there for convenience, that is an emergency access road for emergency vehicles," Vincent said.

Cambria resident Brian Glusovich says his neighborhood was not impacted by flooding like nearby Park Hill.

“The other side on Park Hill, that’s definitely a problem for them and it has been for the last two or three storms,” he said.

When it rains heavily in Cambria, Santa Rosa Creek sometimes overflows, causing water to rise over the bridge serving as the main entrance to Park Hill.

Glusovich says emergency services have opened the emergency access road located on Marlborough Lane, but the volume of traffic has been more than the road can handle.

“That becomes a problem over time because the gravel can’t handle too many cars, so they have to keep redoing it," Glusovich said.

“So that road, which was never meant to have viable traffic is getting beat up by consistent traffic that it was never designed for," Vincent added.

Downtown Cambria has also been impacted by flooding over the last few months.

“The back of the store — it’s like a lake,” said Joy Mislang, JLM Books owner.

Mislang says she lost thousands of dollars worth of merchandise when her store flooded.

“I’ve lost like… $10,000 in books,” she said.

Mislang says she’s concerned about the erosion of the emergency access roads, but she is thankful to be part of a community that helps one another.

“Everybody helps the community. That’s how Cambria is — very family-oriented,” she said.

Another road in San Luis Obispo County that remains closed is Highway 41. According to Caltrans, the highway remains closed between Los Altos and San Gabriel Road. There is no estimate of when it will reopen.