A trucker was driving on rural Highway 162 toward the remote Mendocino County community of Covelo early Friday morning when a 25-foot gap in the roadway opened underneath him, authorities said.

The driver maneuvered his rig most of the way across the deep slipout, though the rear axle was lost as he pulled the trailer out of the deep hole and onto the pavement.

The slipout closed the highway indefinitely in both directions at a point about 1? miles east of Highway 101, the CHP said.

Laytonville/Dos Rios Road is recommended as an alternate route for locals who need to get into the area. But the narrow, dirt road is closed to big rigs and Mendocino County authorities are urging anyone planning unnecessary trips to wait until Highway 162 is repaired, said Mendocino County Sheriff's Sgt. Shannon Barney, the county's emergency services coordinator. Mendocino Pass Road into Covelo is closed because of snow, he said.

Highway 162 runs along and above the Middle Fork of the Eel River. The washout occurred at a spot where drainage from the hillside flows into a large culvert under the highway and into Outlet Creek, which then flows into the Eel, Barney said.

It appeared the drainage may have backed up along the road, undermining the ground under the highway, though the precise cause remained unclear.

The trucker's trailer remained intact, and none of his cargo or fuel were lost — an important point, given the nearby waterway, officials said