Rock slide closes River Road South in Salem; cleanup expected to - KPTV - FOX 12

Rock slide closes River Road South in Salem; cleanup expected to start Wednesday

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SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

The freezing weather may be to blame for a rock slide in Salem that closed a stretch of River Road South, and city leaders say it may be Wednesday before clean-up efforts get underway.

Late Tuesday afternoon officials got the green light from a geotechnical engineer, enabling them to start bringing in crews and equipment to clean up the slide, but they are holding off until daylight Wednesday to start work in the interest of safety.

The pile of rocks blocking the road tumbled down around 6 p.m. on New Year’s Day. City leaders said about 100 cubic yards of rocks and debris came down in the slide.

It’s only covering the northbound lane, but for safety, the entire road is closed for about a mile, from Owens Street South to Minto Island Road Southeast.

It’s a stretch of road people like Salem Public Works Operations Manager Mark Becktel have been watching very carefully.

Over the years, they’ve put up a fence and concrete barrier, removed loose rocks, and taken out trees at the top of the hillside that actually work against stability.

“This is the tenth rock slide in the last, well since 1990,” Becktel explained. “In this case, because it’s disintegrating basalt rock, the tree roots act as pry bars and they pry the rocks loose and create slides.”

It’s an issue homeowner Casey Campbell has been dealing with for a long time. He lives above the slide and told FOX 12 the slides have become almost expected since he moved in 12 years ago.

“We’ve had some slides over the years, some worse than others, but right about this time of year it seems like it’s a common thing,” he explained.

The last slide on this stretch of River Road South was just last March, and that time it was about 30 feet closer to his home.

Still, Campbell said he’s not worried and believes the city is doing a good job to shore up the hillside, installing drainage pipes like these below his home and another fence up top.

He also hopes a long-term fix is coming soon, though.

“I understand the city’s waiting for some kind of bond measure to come up for a retaining wall to hold it back, but outside of that we’re fine,” Campbell told FOX 12. “I’ve been here this long, I’m still here, no cracks or anything. We’re holding up good.”

Because it hasn’t been raining lately, city officials think the freezing and thawing temperatures may be to blame for the slide. The cold temps can expand and contract the ground just enough to get those rocks moving.

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