OSO, Wash. -- Contractors have begun removing slide debris from more than a third of a mile of State Route 530, which is covered by mud and dirt 22 or more feet deep. About 600 feet of the road has been recovered so far, but another 1800 feet remains buried.
It's a careful exercise, because the slide that hit on the morning of March 22 swept people, along with their homes and possessions across SR 530. Scientists say mud, clay, gravel and dirt slammed into the neighborhood along Steelhead Drive at speeds of 60 mph.
That means every scoop of mud and dirt removed by excavators is observed by an archaeologist and a member of the local community for personal effects. Most of the victims were found south of the road during a recovery process that took over a month and much of this dirt had been inspected before.
"We want to assure the community that there are no human remains, no personal belongings coming out of this site," said Kevin Bartoy, WSDOT's chief archaeologist.
The slide debris from the highway is being trucked to an old quarry miles from the slide zone.
The transportation department says it doesn't know how much of SR 530 is intact underneath the overburden of slide debris. By the end of this month, bids will be solicited for contractors to design and build a new road through here. The new road is expected to be higher than the current road that drops lower through this section.
Currently, traffic is rerouted around and above the slide zone on an access road, a former power line inspection road used by Seattle City Light crews. Traffic is one way and follows a pilot car. Westbound traffic leaves a road block at the top of the hour, eastbound traffic at the bottom of the hour.