Idaho's Highway 55 reopens after Thursday's mudslide

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by KTVB.COM

KREM.com

Posted on September 8, 2013 at 4:54 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:02 AM

BANKS, Idaho -- Idaho Transportation Department road crews worked for approximately 49 hours to remove a major mudside that covered a portion of State Highway 55 on Thursday.

The major north-south artery reopened to drivers at approximately 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The road had been blocked from Banks to Smiths Ferry.

Crews also removed two smaller mudslides on nearby State Highway 17 that happened at roughly the same time. Highway 17 (also called the Banks to Lowman highway) was reopened on Friday.

Thursday's severe thunderstorms triggered the mudslides, which are said to be linked to recent wildfires that weakened the soil.

Check KTVB's local road conditions here.

DRIVERS: WHAT TO EXPECT

Officials tell drivers to expect highway flaggers at each end of the slide location, along with electronic signs warning of the remaining mud and debris.

"We're still asking motorists to use caution. It will still be muddy and dusty," said ITD spokesman Reed Hollingshead.

Hollingshead said it took ITD workers just over two days to reopen the roadway, which had an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 cubic yards of material wash down onto it during Thursday's storm.

The slide included water, mud, rocks, and trees. Hollingshead says recent wildfires are thought to be the cause.

"There was no vegetation to hold back any of the water," Hollingshead said.

REMOVING THE MUDSLIDES

"It's a mess!" said Brian Inwards with ITD.

Inwards and his crew began work at 6:30 p.m. Thursday when a huge mudslide came roaring down the hillside next to Highway 55 and the North Fork Bridge.

"Trees, stumps, rocks, everything came down," said Inwards. "We were very lucky there was no traffic here. I don't think a car would've survived."

What's more, crew members say the mud "tidal wave" was so powerful that it pushed the two 3,000 pound concrete barriers from one side of the road to the other.

Some are still missing.

Crews also say culverts and pipes under the highways have suffered from the disaster. These manmade pathways normally help streamwater flow, but many are now blocked with mud and debris.

Crews plan to continue monitoring the situation, and travelers are advised to take caution when driving in these areas.

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