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Weather Gives Crews Chance To Clear Mud North Idaho Streams Holding Below Flood Stage

The soggy hillsides surrounding Bonners Ferry stayed put Friday, giving state crews time to clear mud and debris off U.S. Highway 95 and keep the road open to traffic.

Frequent mudslides stalled travelers and truckers using the main north-south route the past two days, but all lanes are now open.

“It’s looking really good right now,” said Larry Merritt, an Idaho Department of Transportation foreman in Boundary County. “We pulled logs and the more firm debris out and all that is left there now is soup.”

Soupy conditions hit Shoshone County with a mudslide early Friday morning on the road between Enaville and Kingston, according to Public Works Director Randy Murray.

Road workers were able to direct traffic around the slide and clean up the debris - 50 truckloads full - by 2:30 p.m., he said.

Elswhere in North Idaho, streams were staying steady or dropping, and the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers crested below flood stage.

One exception was Bayview, where a small brook broke loose of its banks and before dawn tore through the Bayview Mercantile Store.

Owners Tom and Carol Coleman called Kootenai County Disaster Services at 3 a.m., and the Lakes Highway District made an early morning delivery of sand and bags.

The Colemans had the stream contained by early afternoon, but the store was closed all day - the first time in the three years the Colemans have owned the store, except for Christmas.

While the forecast called for cooler evening temperatures and no rain, a small stream flood advisory will continue through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Although the slides stopped for now, the hillsides can’t be stabilized until the ground dries out. That is months away, Merritt said.

“We can’t do anything to prevent the slides right now. We have people watching them and can only take care of them when they do come down.”

Highway 95 north of Bonners Ferry has been unpredictable. The sandy hill gave way more than five times in two days, blocking the road. That section of the highway is slated to be rebuilt starting in 1998. The project will cost about $18 million.

While the state highway is clear, a smattering of county roads are still plagued with mudslides, washouts and flooding. A portion of Old Highway 2, which runs between Naples and Bonners Ferry, is closed because of cascading mud as is Westside Road.

“We are trying to keep everyone off Westside where we continue to have slides,” said county road department spokesman Nancy Guthrie. “It’s basically travel at your own risk. The county roads are pretty tenuous and falling apart.”

Even though Boundary and Bonner counties got a reprieve from the rain, warm temperatures are melting the 2-3 feet of snow still on the ground. Water is running over snow-filled ditches and clogged culverts, eating away at road beds.

“The ground is saturated and we have water running everywhere,” Guthrie said.

In Bonner County 25 roads have flooding and erosion problems. Five other roads have been closed, including Kelso Lake, Gun Club and Dufort Road near Priest River where rocks and mud keep collapsing onto it. Dufort Road is expected to reopen sometime today.

More rain is predicted for tonight and Bonner County officials expect more road closures. Residents who cannot get to their homes and need a place to stay can contact Emergency Disaster Relief (265-1437) or the Road Department (263-8899) for shelter information.

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