The Los Padres National Forest announced plans to reopen most areas on Monday, but more stormy weather could change that.
The Los Padres National Forest has ended a two-month-long forest-wide closure that began on January 13, but many areas that suffered severe storm damage are still inaccessible.
Round after round of heavy rainfall has caused landslides, washed out roads, and left parts of the forest severely damaged.
“Most of us here in California are not used to this rain,” said Vince Montes with the Los Padres National Forest.
A senior firefighter for a forest service engine based in Santa Maria describes the damage to Colson Canyon Road in the mountains east of the city.
“There were landslides on top of the water rerouting and creating basically mini canyons in the middle of what was the road,” explained Hernan Cortes, Senior Firefighter for Engine 337.
Cortes says it can be incredibly challenging just getting to these remote areas to see how bad the damage is.
“These roads before were difficult to get to with a vehicle. Now that there’s no road—a lot of times we end up having to hike out,” he said. “One of the longest ones was a 12-mile hike so that took all day.”
Rebuilding washed out forest service roads will take on added importance when the weather dries out and fire season returns.
“For the future, this is what’s going to create wildland fires for us with all that huge grass crop,” said Montes.
As another storm looms, more damage is likely which means more closures could be necessary.
For now, the Los Padres National Forest is open for business, but only in areas that are accessible.
Cerro Alto--a popular hiking and camping area between Morro Bay and Atascadero-- will remain closed until the road is rebuilt.
The Forest Service says that a lot of areas are still closed, so be sure to check their website before you go.