Washougal River Road closed through weekend for landslide

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer and Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Washougal River Road will remain closed in both directions through the weekend at approximately Milepost 4 due to a landslide and unstable hillside.

Jeff Mize, spokesman for Clark County Public Works, said crews have pushed debris to the side of the road and will remove it at a later date. A private geotechnical consultant, however, believes the hillside is still unsafe and that additional debris could fall into the road as this weekend’s rainstorm approaches.

The county is also concerned about a large Douglas fir that may fall onto nearby power lines, according to a news release. A rocky outcrop near the tree’s base was moving when crews were in the area, and small rocks could be seen falling from the hillside.

“The big question is what’s going to happen to the hillside itself,” Mize said. “We have a lot of rain in the forecast.”

According to the National Weather Service, Clark County is under a flood watch through late Sunday night. Clark County is expected to see 1 to 3 inches of rain in the lowlands and up to 2 to 5 inches in the foothills.

The rain could trigger flooding and debris flows, particularly near the burn scar of the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge.

Hydrologist Andy Bryant explained that the latest storms and coming bouts of rainstorms are the result of a long stream of moisture across the north Pacific Ocean — referred to as an atmospheric river — drawing moisture from tropical parts of the Pacific coast.

“That’s typically a recipe for our heaviest rain,” Bryant said.

People, structures and roads located below steep slopes, in canyons and near the mouths of canyons could be at risk of rapid landslides, according to the National Weather Service.

Washougal River Road will be reopened when it is safe to do so, according to a release from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, which announced the closure at 12:33 a.m. Friday.

Motorists are encouraged to avoid the area. Nonetheless, Mize said some drivers have bypassed the posted road closure signs in the area.

“These signs are up to protect the public, and it’s technically illegal to do so,” Mize said.

Clark County Public Works advises drivers to head north on Southeast 32nd Street toward Southeast Vernon Road to bypass the landslide, meeting up with Washougal River Road just east of Northeast Hughes Road.