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Rock slide shrinks I-84 to one lane

Reopening road expected to take until next week

A rockslide is seen on Interstate 84 through the Columbia Gorge near Hood River, Ore., blocking eastbound traffic and reducing westbound traffic to one lane on Thursday. The landslide began Wednesday night. (Associated Press)
A rockslide is seen on Interstate 84 through the Columbia Gorge near Hood River, Ore., blocking eastbound traffic and reducing westbound traffic to one lane on Thursday. The landslide began Wednesday night. (Associated Press)

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – Traffic will crawl along Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge through the weekend because of a landslide at a cliff near Hood River, Oregon transportation officials said.

Traffic was down to one lane westbound on Thursday, with eastbound traffic blocked. It’s expected to be that way until at least Monday, the officials said.

Eastbound motorists and truckers were told to try detour routes north, where much of the detour is off-limits to oversize loads, and south, where snow and rain could await travelers.

The I-84 landslide started at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Its volume was estimated at 2,000 cubic yards.

“You can still hear the rocks tumbling down, and it’s the most eerie thing,” said spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie of the Transportation Department.

Dan Koopman, of LaGrande, said he was headed home from a meeting in Salem when the rocks started smashing the front of his car.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to get crushed,’ and I bailed out of my car as fast as I could,” he told KGW-TV.

He jumped over a barrier and got away from the slide with just a few sore ribs. His car was totaled.

The Transportation Department plans to have a contractor send up workers called scalers who will use a mountaineering technique – rappelling – to descend the cliff and knock down the remaining loose rock, so it won’t be a danger, Dinwiddie said.

The hope is to clear the road enough to open an eastbound lane Monday, she said.

Meanwhile, a fatal two-car crash on Washington Highway 14 in the gorge disrupted traffic on that roadway for several hours Thursday, the Washington State Patrol said.

The I-84 landslide increased traffic on Highway 14, a winding road on the north side of the Columbia. Two cars collided Thursday afternoon east of the Bridge of the Gods, Trooper William Finn said.

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