Mud and rock slide closes NB I-5 near Woodland - KPTV - FOX 12

Mud and rock slide closes NB I-5 near Woodland

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WOODLAND, WA (KPTV) -

The northbound lanes of I-5 near Woodland are blocked after a mud and rock slide Wednesday afternoon.

The Washington Department of Transportation said the slide is at milepost 22.0 near Dike Road, and will not be clear until sometime Thursday.

The debris included downed trees, soil and boulders the size of a car.

Crews said Thursday morning they will need to wait until daylight to start cleaning up the debris, adding that the situation is too unstable to work through in the dark. 

One worker examining the initial scene told Fox 12 that he had moved just 150 feet past where the major slide was located before it came down, and said the noise was like "a freight train" as the debris came down the hill.

"All of a sudden, it just fell out right behind me. The whole hillside. There's rocks over there as big as your car and bigger," said Rex Smith with WSDOT.

WSDOT estimates about 100 cubic yards of debris fell. They will need to remove another 200 cubic yards to stabilize the hillside.

Workers said their could still see and hear movement on the hillside where the rocks came down, describing a crackling sound and noting that several more large rocks were at the top of the hill but looked unstable.

WSDOT is advising drivers to expect delays and plan on using alternate routes, and will keep the road closed while debris continues to fall. Freight traffic is advised to use I-84 or SR14 to US 97 as a detour.

Traffic has been dramatically affected by the mudslide, with the backup of drivers reaching back for miles and leaving cars moving at a crawl.

Tim Consentino is supposed to be in Canada on Thursday to deliver a load of new Tesla's and was just behind the slide on I-5 when he got stuck in the major backup.

"All of a sudden traffic came to a stop and nobody knew exactly what was going on," said Consentino.

Angela Knopp and her family are also stuck. They're trying to get back home to Rainier where they're also dealing with flooding.

"We sat there for about 2 1/2 - 3 hours without moving, till we finally got stuck here and now we're told we can't get home," said Knopp.

As the hours passed by for people stuck in traffic, frustration began to boil over but even more of the hill could still come down and WSDOT said until engineers can look at it in the daylight to make sure it's safe, there's no choice but to block all northbound traffic overnight.

"I understand this is a huge inconvenience, and it's I-5 so the volumes are very large, but safety is our highest priority. We can't take chances," said Glenn Schneider, SW Region Maintenance Manager with WSDOT.

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There is no commercial detour as of 5:30 p.m., but a representative from the Walmart in Woodland on Dike Access Road verified to Fox 12 a Twitter report saying commercial drivers would be allowed to wait overnight in the west side of the store's parking lot.

Shelters for stranded motorists have been set up at The Promise Church at 101 Hillshire Drive in Woodland and Woodland High School at 1500 Dike Access Rd.

Highway crews will begin cleanup once WSDOT determines the area is safe. There is no current estimated time for the road to reopen but FOX 12 was told the best case scenario is that I-5 could be back open on Thursday night.

WSDOT said Thursday morning they are working to get one lane of northbound traffic open in the southbound lanes. They did say this may take several hours.  

This is a developing story. Stay with Fox 12 and KPTV.com for updates.

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