Cowlitz County Public Works reports that it could take a couple of weeks to clear that landslide that’s blocking the Kalama River Road. The slide came down in the 3000 block of Kalama River Road at about 9 am Wednesday morning, completely blocking the road and knocking out power to 127 Cowlitz PUD customers. Cowlitz PUD officials say that line crews went “cross-country” to string another power line around the slide, restoring electric service at about 8 pm Wednesday night. Weyerhaeuser has opened the gates on the 8100 Road, giving local residents and emergency vehicles access to the area above the slide. County officials say that this slide is “too big” for county crews to handle; it’s currently estimated that two acres of material moved in the slide. An emergency has been declared, and the county is now in the process of selecting a contractor to start on the slide removal and road repair.
The Washington Department of Transportation reports that SR 503 remains closed near Ariel, as the slide that came down in that region is also being called “too big” for state road crews to deal with. It’s reported that WashDOT used a drone to inspect the slide that covered the road on Monday, but there’s still no schedule as to when they might start working on debris removal and road repair. Detours remain in place, but drivers are still being advised to avoid this route until further notice.
Rail service is still shut down between Seattle and Portland, while Burlington Northern-Santa Fe works on a slide that covered the tracks between Kelso and Vancouver on Monday night. Amtrak hasn’t announced any update since the 15th, when they announced that a moratorium on rail traffic was being extended into today. At this time, it’s still expected that the rail lines between Portland and Seattle will open later today. You should expect heavy traffic on the main lines after they re-open, so you’ll need to be extra-alert at rail crossings with the temporary increase in train traffic.
The Weather Service says that we need to be on the alert for the increased chance of slides or debris flows in the local area tonight and into tomorrow. The Weather Service in Seattle says that persistent, wet weather in Western Washington has kept the soils near saturation, which also exceeds the landslide thresholds set by the U. S. Geological Survey. There’s now an “elevated threat of rain-induced shallow landslides” throughout the region; they also say that the rain that’s expected this weekend will lead to an increased threat of landslides.