Washington commuters in Cowlitz County are dealing with a massive landslide that has shut down both lanes of state Route 503 near Woodland.
The landslide is far from typical.
The Washington State Department of Transportation said a 20-million-pound rock slab has come loose from the hillside along the road. The chunk of rock is more than 60 feet high and 100 feet wide — about the size of a basketball court.
“When our maintenance crews got out there, they could literally still hear the cracking of tree roots and rocks as this thing was still sliding,” said WSDOT’s Tamara Greenwell. “The big concern is that we can’t get in front of it to start clearing it because it’s still moving.”
The cause of the landslide likely has to do with this year’s especially wet weather combined with colder temperatures, said Greenwell.
Yale Valley is blocked in Southwest Washington, just west of Cougar and about 21 miles east of Woodland.
WSDOT has signed an emergency contract with a company that will use explosives to remove pieces of the rock, starting at the top. Greenwell said it’s still unclear when the highway will reopen.
“For the residents who live in the communities impacted, it’s adding time to their travel,” she said. “But it’s a very unique and dangerous situation, so we’re prioritizing safety.”