Crews work to clear Hwy 126: 'You can't predict the slides'

Crews work to clear Hwy 126: 'You can't predict the slides'

WALTON, Ore. -- Transportation officials said that they're still trying to figure out when they can re-open Highway 126 after a landslide brought tons of rocks, mud and debris into the roadway on Thursday.

Officials told KVAL’s Tom Adams that it is looking less likely that Highway 126 west of Walton is going to re-open Friday night, as traffic crews had hoped for. They said that the reason is simple; this mess is huge.

Traffic near Walton came to a stop on Thursday when an avalanche covered the pavement with debris. 

Rick Little, the Oregon Department of Transportation information officer, said that ground movement overnight doubled the amount of debris blocking the road.

The hillside was so unstable on Thursday that the landslide made its presence known during an interview with ODOT officials.

“You never know with these things,” said Little. “First of all, you can't predict the slides.”

With little material left on the uphill side of the highway, first thing Friday morning the contractor’s team started clearing one side of the mess while ODOT crews set to work on the other.

Amidst the rocks and mud are large trees, some of which measured six feet in diameter.

The workers are also dealing with a blocked culvert, which left a nearby creek nowhere to flow but over the road.

While Little told KVAL that the indication is that the road won’t be cleared until tomorrow, he remains hopeful that his team can break through the debris Friday night.

“We haven't ruled out the possibility of it reopening today. Perhaps the least we can do by nightfall is to get a lane open for emergency vehicles,” said Little.

A detour is in place on Highway 36. Visit ODOT's website for the latest traffic closures.

At this time, there is no certainty when Highway 126W will open up to traffic Friday, if at all. Watch KVAL News and this website for updates.