The latest winter storm dumped nearly 5 inches of rain on downtown Brookings and up to 6 inches in other areas of the county on Thursday and Friday. The forecast called for 100 percent rain through Sunday.
Rain-soaked hillsides began to collapse Thursday evening, starting with the
complete blockage of Highway 101 at milepost 310, south of Humbug Mountain. The highway remained closed until Friday afternoon, when one lane of traffic was opened. Oregon Department of Transportation officials at the scene could not guarantee the one lane would remain open as the hillside above and below the narrow section of highway continued to move.
On Friday, a slide closed Highway 197 in northern California, that links Highway 101 and Highway 199, and many Curry County roads were closed by high water Friday afternoon.
Also on Friday, access to the small, rural town of Agness, 35 miles east of Gold Beach, was blocked on both sides due to slides on Forest Road 33. Carpenterville Road, about 10 miles north of Brookings, remained closed in some areas because of slides.
County and state road crews struggled to keep up with the failing roads as rains kept falling.
“We are working closely with the Curry County Sheriff’s office to address
public health and safety needs for the community of Agness,” Gold Beach District Ranger Alan Vandiver said. “Our forest road engineers are working diligently to open the road as quickly as possible. However, with the predicted continued precipitation, there is potential for additional slides and road closures.”
FR33 was blocked in the vicinities of China Flat at milepost 53 and Quosatana Campground at milepost 15. Between the two blockages, approximately 5,000 cubic yards of material sloughed off nearby mountain slopes and onto the roadway.
A road maintenance contractor worked to clean up the slide near Quosatana, but there was no estimate on when FR 33 would be open for public use. Road engineers were posting “road closed ahead” signs to warn motorists of the blocked locations.
The slide on Highway 101 near Humbug Mountain affected Curry County
Circuit Court Friday morning, as Curry County District Attorney Everett Dial was unable to make the drive from his home, and attorney Rick Inokuchi, who commutes from Coos County, was stuck on the north side of the slide.
Deputy DA Jake Conde handled court sessions and Inokuchi made appearances by telephone. However at least one sentencing was delayed for a week and other defendants, awaiting arraignment, were not brought in from the jail.
Southbound traffic on Highway 101 was stopped at Port Orford and northbound traffic at Nesika Beach north of Gold Beach. The Curry Coastal Pilot sent News Alert emails about the slide to 2,400 readers late Thursday night; the Curry County Sheriff’s Office made recorded message calls to everyone signed up for its emergency warning notifications.
ODOT advised drivers to use alternate routes, in this case via Interstate 5 through Roseburg and Grants Pass – a detour of more than 250 miles.
“An estimated 400 yards of rocky debris make up the slide,” ODOT reported.
Crews held off repair because it remained active due to the saturated soils and, for safety reasons, they could not begin the cleanup until it became stable.
In addition, some lanes of Highway 101 were closed between Brookings and Gold Beach because of slumping roadbeds. Traffic was still moving through those areas, however.
As heavy rains continued Friday morning, Curry County reported several road closures, and the U.S. Coast Guard closed the Chetco River Bar to all marine traffic. A North Bank Chetco River resident whose home was surrounded by flood waters in January reported that the river had come up around her home again Friday.
The storms are forecast to continue through the day on Saturday, slacking off to showers. The Pilot’s weather station recorded 2.65 inches on Thursday, the heaviest daily total so far in March.
The Curry County Road Department reported that current slide areas caused by previous January storms on or along county roads seemed to being holding steady with the exception of Old County Road outside Brookings. It was down to one lane, with another lane collapsing downhill into a nearby driveway.
Also affected was Carpenterville Road with landslides at two locations, near its intersections with Pistol River Road and Cape Ferrelo Road.
Additionally, Euchre Creek Road, 1.5 miles past the end of the county road, was closed with 400 cubic yards of slide debris.
Other affected roads included Cedar Valley Road with a new small slide north of Hendricks, Floras Creek had pipes and culverts plugged, Hunter Creek Loop was closed at the north entrance by a slide just north of the bridge.
Hunter Creek Road had water encroaching road sides, Langlois Mountain Road had pipes plugged, Little South Fork was closed a half mile from Hunter Creek Road, North Bank Rogue River Road was closed at Rogue River Park and Lobster Creek Bridge, with water 2 to 3 feet over the road.
Pistol River Loop Road had high water signs placed at intersections, had water over the road. Sixes River Road had a hillside slumping into the road. North Bank Pistol River Road had water over the road at mile post 1.5 and the South Bank Chetco River Road had a slide.