Large portion of Hwy 22 still too dangerous to travel—and rain could make it worse, ODOT says

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MEHAMA, OR (KPTV) - As many people are wait to get back to see what's left of their properties in towns and cities in the Santiam Canyon, the Oregon Department of Transportation says a large portion of Highway 22 is too dangerous for people to travel.

Transportation officials say downed trees, rocks, and other debris from the fires still litter the road, and with more rain expected on Thursday night, officials say there is potential for even more issues.

FOX 12 on Thursday visited the road closure off Highway 22 in Mehama, which marks the end of the fire line. From the road closure for the next approximately 40 miles ODOT says there are major safety issues.

ODOT says right now, there are about 10,000 trees in immediate danger to the public, meaning they're dead and could fall at any moment. The expected rain on Thursday night could push back any efforts to remove the safety hazards.

ODOT says it is expecting up to 100,000 trees that will need to be cut down as a result of the fires just along that 40-mile stretch of Highway 22. ODOT says crews started work on removal of these hazards on Wednesday, but they're preparing for the rain to cause major issues.

"That is very concerning because there's no vegetation left and you've got a lot of rocks and things that have been damaged from the heat of the fire," Cole Mullis said. "So, we're expecting quite a few landslides and rockslides over the next night, when the wind comes in or the rain comes in, and the wind is going to be an issue too, because it's going to blow over some of these trees."

ODOT says just the other day, a tree fell on an OSP trooper while they were driving. ODOT says it is working as fast as it can to get the highway back open, but at this point, there is no timeline available.

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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