WALTON, Ore. — All the rain we’ve been getting this week likely caused a massive landslide on Highway 126W Thursday morning. The road won’t reopen until at least Friday.
There were two separate ones that happened there just west of Walton, at milepost 24, right around 9:30 a.m.
ODOT flaggers greeted drivers heading down the highway, sending them back the way they came, thanks to the mess that covered all four lanes of the highway.
“I think this came off of a rock face up above on this hillside. It likely gave way, sending whatever was attached to that rock as well as whatever was below it, tumbling down onto the highway,” said Rick Little, ODOT spokesman.
This particular combination consisted of huge tree trunks and branches and large rocks, in addition to the standard mud we often see in winter-time landslides.
An ODOT plow operator said he saw the whole thing happen, saying one slide came down right in front of him and a U.S. Forest Service truck. When he got out to help, he said the second slide came down, sending them both running.
“These things are pretty much unpredictable, so if you’re in an area snow plowing, which on a day like today, we would be. It could be a very close call, which it was today, so we’re thankful,” Little said.
As far as we saw, that was the end of the slides. But ODOT managers say as long as the area is active, more slides could happen. Until then the highway will stay closed.
Drivers are being detoured through Highway 36 via Poodle Creek on the east side and through Mapleton on the west, as ODOT deals with another side effect of this winter weather.
“It’s landslide country and when you have as much rainfall and snowfall as we’ve had recently, that puts a lot of pressure on the landslides themselves, and activates them, triggers the landslide movement, and I think that’s what we’re experiencing here,” Little said.
ODOT says geotechnical experts have determined the slide to be stable. It will be bring a contractor Friday to clear the debris. It expects to reopen the highway by Friday afternoon