AUBURN, Wash. – A portion of westbound State Route 18 in Auburn will be shut down until at least Wednesday after a large landslide covered much of the road.
The slide is located between West Valley Highway and Weyerhaeuser Way South in the Peasley Canyon area.
The Washington State Department of Transportation says about 1,500 cubic yards of mud, rocks and debris slid across all westbound lanes of the highway Thursday night. The rock first started to go Thursday night, but soon tripled in size. The hillside is unstable and the debris field is growing.
Drivers are being detoured onto the West Valley Highway and then onto Peasley Canyon Road to Interstate 5. Semis are being told to stay out of here altogether and use State Route 516 because Peasley Canyon is so narrow. Eastbound drivers are also affected.
"Usually, I can get up here from auburn in about five minutes. Now it's taken me 25 minutes," said one driver.
WSDOT says as long as the rock is shifting, they will wait and watch.
“The hillside is still shedding rock and there is timber at risk of coming down, so it's too dangerous to get in and work,” said Dave McCormick, WSDOT Asst. Regional Administrator.
Those trees towards the top are now posing a risk to the eastbound lanes as well. The DOT has spotters at both sides of the slide and if they see the trees shift they will shut down the entire highway.
Keeping an eye on the hill is about all crews can do, until the hill dries out a little it's too dangerous to work. And with rain in the forecast through tomorrow afternoon drivers may have a wait.
WSDOT says slides like this are not uncommon this time of year so they are ready to shut down roads at the first sign of a slide so no one gets hurt.
“Part of our winter operation is to watch and keep track of these hills for this very reason,” said McCormick.