Landslide closes Historic Columbia River Hwy ‘for next few days’

TROUTDALE, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A landslide, what Multnomah County Sheriff’s officials call “massive,” has shut down the Historic Columbia River Highway east of the Stark St. Bridge two minutes east of Troutdale, Ore.

The Historic Columbia River Highway will be closed east of the Stark St. bridge “for the next few days” because there is still a risk of rocks falling on the highway, an Oregon Department of Transportation statement said. Much of the removal — an estimated 100 truck loads — will be done Friday.

Both lanes of the highway are covered, and MCSO Lt. Steve Alexander said for the moment, crews are in the process of establishing a detour.

A landslide shut down the Historic Columbia River Highway east of the Stark St. Bridge, June 5, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A landslide shut down the Historic Columbia River Highway east of the Stark St. Bridge, June 5, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

There are no reports of injuries at this time. ODOT Public Information Officer Don Hamilton said it’s too early to tell when the road will reopen, after the noon hour slide covered the road.

He said there is one especially large boulder in the road, in combination with roughly 1,000 cubic yards of debris, most of which is rocks.

Hamilton said ODOT checks the area regularly and no specific risk in the area was noted.

“It’s been dry for days,” he said. Officials are waiting for the go-ahead and when it is safe, will begin the task of cleaning up.

Nets and rock screens used to hold back the hillside along the Historic Columbia River Highway prevented a power pole from being knocked down.
Nets and rock screens used to hold back the hillside along the Historic Columbia River Highway prevented a power pole from being knocked down.

In a strange twist of irony, a Portland Community College geology class was in the area for a field trip.

Crews will begin clearing the debris once the area is determined to be safe, which it has not been yet.

Did we know this would happen?

Hamilton said there have been previous landslides in the same location, and neither geologists nor rescue crews know what triggered this one.There is speculation repeated freezing and thawing throughout the winter and spring may have weakened the hillside, Hamilton said.

A "massive" landslide tumbled onto East Historic Columbia River Highway June 5, 2014.
A “massive” landslide tumbled onto East Historic Columbia River Highway June 5, 2014.

But, the netting and rock screens on the hillside slowed down the landslide enough to save a utility pole, he said.

Work will begin with a rapelling crew investigating the stability of the hill and knocking down any more rocks that may be loose enough to roll.

“We’ll make sure that hill is stable before we put any crews in jeopardy by putting them underneath to start clearing the material,” said Hamilton.

“This isn’t a high capacity road,” said Hamilton.

Still, at this time a detour has not been established.

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