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The closure of a section of State Route 530 near Oso has been extended until Thursday while geologists continue to watch a slow-moving landslide that was discovered last week. The slide is two miles west of the scene of the 2014 mudslide that killed 43 people.
Crews investigated the new slide after people noticed cracks in a roadway that runs up the hillside south of SR 530.
WSDOT said Sunday no additional movement had been detected, but geologists want additional time to observe the slide area before re-opening the highway.
"We had four days of movement on the slope. We've now had two days of no movement on the slope, and that's part of the reason our geologists are recommending to continue to keep the road closed. They need more data points," WSDOT Assistant Regional Administrator Dave McCormick said.
McCormick said it's 24 acres of material that's approximately 100 feet deep, so there is little in the short-term that WSDOT can do to shore it up.
A voluntary evacuation is in place for about a dozen homeowners in the area of the slide.
WSDOT says drivers who need to travel between Oso and Darrington must use State Route 20, which will add at least one hour to a one-way trip. Emergency vehicles and property owners inside the road closure are allowed through the area.
“Yes, it’s frustrating,” Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin said. “There are people here that are going to not have a 20, 30, 40 minute commute [Monday]. They will have hour-and-a-half, two hour, two-and-a-half hour commutes.”
Rankin says the closure will impact commuters and cost businesses. Timber businesses such as Hampton Mill may have to pay more to deliver logs to Arlington, as trucks charge per mile, according to Rankin.
Emergency responders say it could mean delays.
“For [volunteer firefighters] to have to drive around an extra hour-and-a-half, sometimes two hours to get to work, it puts our volunteers out of the community longer and have less responders during the workday,” Snohomish county fire captain Jeff McClelland said.
Emergency vehicles will still be able to access SR 530, but McClelland says he is concerned about ambulances transporting patients close to the slide.
Some loved ones of 2014 Oso slide victims say they are happy with the precautions this time around.
“I know there are people upset they have to drive around, but if they would have walked a few feet in my shoes those first few days after March 22,” Dayn Brunner said. He dug out the body of his sister, Summer Raffo, five days after the 2014 slide.
“I don’t want that to happen again. I want people to be cautious, be patient until the geologists do their jobs so everyone can be safe and live,” Brunner said.
Rankin hopes to speak with county and state leaders on Monday morning to discuss a plan if the slide does fall onto the highway.
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