SKYKOMISH, Wash. - A massive mudslide that had blocked SR 20 overnight Thursday caused hours-long detours for drivers trying to get through the pass outside of Mazama.
It happened in an area that had previously been impacted by a wildfire between Ross Dam and Mazama.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said that the road was buried 15-feet deep in some sections and 200 feet across. The slide may have been caused by heavy rains falling on the pass.
"There’s a guardrail buried in there," said Chris Lash, who was visiting from Portland.
Lash had been mountain biking near Cutthroat Creek and was heading back to meet his wife when the slide came down Wednesday night.
"Storm came in, and so I finished about 6 p.m., came driving down the road, and the whole slide had just hit five minutes before that," he said.
Lash said the only detour was an hours-long trip.
"I knew there was no way to get to Mazama, no easy way besides this road," said Lash. "One guy tried to walk across, and he sunk up to his knees in the mud."
Lash decided to leave his car on the side of the road. He found a sturdy part of the slide to walk across with his bike in order to use pedal power to ride an hour back into town.
"It was pouring rain and I decided to just suck it up and get back on my mountain bike," said Chris.
Kyle Martz was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail near Ross Lake when the rain started to fall. "We just felt the rain that caused the slide, super heavy, a lot of moisture."
Kyle and "Shaggy" were part of a larger group. They weren’t surprised there was a slide due to the rain and were happy to hitch a ride back to Seattle after a night of camping at the lake.
"Last night, a super hard rain came through. We were on the other side of Ross Lake hiking, and it was pounding. I’m from the Pacific Northwest, and it’s probably the heaviest rain I’ve been in a while. Three to four hours consistently," said Martz.
"The last couple of days have just been pouring it down, up in the passes and stuff, just a lot of rain, but soaked through, cold, but I feel like it’s a Washington experience," said Ben "Shaggy" Lateu-Smith, a hiker from London.
WSDOT said that they had the debris cleared by around noon.
"What made it easier at this location was the steep of the hill, the crew was able to assess that the slide was stable and get in there this morning and get the material out of the way," said Lauren Loebsack with WSDOT.
She said old burn scars in the area of the slide, may have also played a role along with the rain.
Similar concerns over slides, falling trees and rocks are also prevalent in the area of the Bolt Creek Fire, burning near US 2. WSDOT said US 2 will be closed at least through Monday when the Joint Task Force supporting the fire will evaluate the situation again. So far, the closure points there remain between Index and Skykomish.
"We have to make sure that it's safe, and after a burn goes through, those trees have been burned out and that hill is scarred," said Loebsack.
Meantime, Lash was able to get back to his car off Hwy 20 on Thursday. He said it’s all part of adventuring in the Pacific Northwest.
"I’m surprised they actually cleared it as quickly as they did. It was 10 feet deep over there," said Chris. "We are just biking to get the car, and we are just going to keep riding for a little bit."