Crews with the Washington State Department of Transportation are moving mud, cutting down trees and trying to divert water crossing State Route 706 east of Ashford.
A logging road above the two-lane roadway came apart in two places during last week’s heavy rain, sending hundreds of tons of mud, rocks, trees and water crashing onto the highway, stranding park employees and 200 people in Nisqually Park who live near the entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park.
“Yeah, we’re cut off, can’t get out because this is the only way in,” said logger Jack Myers. Myers said he’s been able to take advantage of state-run escorts on nearby logging roads to get to work but not as often as he needs to go. “I’ve been missing work for the last three days, so it’s kind of like, I need to get to work. Half a day here and half a day there don’t cut it.”
In nearby Ashford, the town is nearly deserted. This is usually a slow time of year and now it’s even slower because tourists have been told to stay away. “We had a day of looky-loos because farther down from me, it was a little disastrous,” said Nancy Backlund.
The work could take a long time. Crews are still trying to determine how much damage was done to the highway as they clear it. And the nearby hillside is still giving way. “As we were down here evaluating what that work would look like, more material broke loose up the hillside. It was quite a scary sight,” said WSDOT Regional Administrator for Maintenance and Operations Troy Cowan.
Crews are also concerned about more rain forecast for the weekend.
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