A private helicopter company from Paso Robles is evacuating roughly 50 people from the remote Esalen Institute in Big Sur, after severe winter storms and road closures stranded clients, students and staff at the historic retreat center.
On Friday, staff from Paso Robles-based Sinton Helicopters began shuttling people from Esalen with the help of another helicopter leased from a Southern California company, a Sinton employee said when reached for comment Friday morning.
The employee said the Sinton pilot and crew were in the air at about 10 a.m. and were not immediately available to provide further information.
Gordon Wheeler, the president and spokesman for Esalen Institute, was at the main campus Friday morning and unavailable for comment. However, a representative for the institute said that the operation had been planned for a couple weeks and that there was no danger to people or property.
She said the roughly 50 people were being shuttled via helicopter to the El Sur Ranch, near the Point Sur Lighthouse, about 20 miles north in Monterey County. About 20 people were being taken by shuttle van south via local access roads with the assistance of Caltrans, the representative said.
Highway 1 remains closed from Ragged Point on the southern end to Palo Colorado in Monterey County, about 10 miles south of Carmel, said Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers.
He said the Esalen caravan will drive south to Ragged Point, passing Paul’s Slide about 20 miles north of the San Luis Obispo…