Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Jan. 11 @ 4:26 p.m. / Oregon, Roads
U.S. 101 Still Closed South of Port Orford Due To 'Arizona Slide'
Oregon transportation officials want to make sure a landslide has slowed enough for crews to build a temporary lane through the collapsed stretch of U.S. 101 south of Port Orford.
With more rain in the forecast, there is currently no estimated time for when the highway will reopen, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Noble told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Wednesday.
“Extra rain may saturate the hillside again and may accelerate the landslide to cause it to slide even further toward the ocean,” he said.
ODOT officials became aware that the landslide — known as the Arizona Slide about 12 miles south of Port Orford — was moving when large cracks began appearing in the highway on Jan. 2. The department closed the southbound lanes in the middle of last week when a small section dropped, Noble said.
The first big movement happened at about 3 a.m. Monday, with about 3 to 5 feet of the road washing away. As of about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the road had dropped by about 15 feet and moved toward the ocean by about 12 feet, Noble told the Outpost.
“Since then, it’s been pretty quiet,” he said. “We’re just waiting for the latest update at the end of the day to see what the engineers say and what’s the status of the slide so far today.”
During a Facebook Live video at 3 p.m., Curry County Commissioner Brad Alcorn said he and Sheriff John Ward visited the area Wednesday afternoon. Material was being delivered. There was heavy equipment and workers “aggressively working on the road,” Alcorn said.
“I was really impressed with the progress that has been made,” Alcorn told his constituents. “It’s moving along faster than I had anticipated. Hopefully we can get at least one lane open soon and make it passable for emergency vehicles and maybe essential people.”
According to Curry County Emergency Management Director Monica Ward, the county is working with the state to ensure essential personnel living on the north side of the slide, but working south of the slide are lodged.
Meanwhile, trucks transporting goods into Curry County are detouring via I-5 and U.S. 199, Ward said. They’ve having to use smaller trucks due to California’s restrictions, but distributors are working to increase those deliveries, she said.
Ward also discouraged motorists from using “alternate routes” though locals may be familiar with the county’s forest service roads.
“There are storms moving through and these roads are not well maintained,” she said. “You can start to experience rock slides, landslides, debris, and the last thing you want to have happened is for any of you to be trapped on these roads especially when there’s no cell coverage.”
It would be difficult for first responders to respond to a collision or a critical injury as well, Ward said.
According to Noble, the Arizona Slide is one of about a dozen other landslides ODOT has been monitoring for some time. The last big Arizona Slide event occurred in 1993 and closed U.S. 101 for more than a week, according to an ODOT news release.