The West Fork Road remained open to single lane traffic only Wednesday following a large landslide that initially closed the road and knocked out power to local residents the day before.
The slide occurred between Trapper Creek Job Corps and the West Fork Ranger Station near mile marker 13 at about 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Ravalli County Road Administrator John Horat said the road crew continued working Wednesday to clear the large boulders that slid from the adjoining hillside.
“It’s been a problem spot for us,” Horat said. “There were some big boulders that fractured and slid, probably due to the recent freeze-thaw cycle that we’ve been experiencing. It was a pretty substantial slide.”
The crew initially worked to push the rock off the road and into adjoining ditches. Additional work will be required to remove the rock from the site and stabilize the hillside.
Horat said the road department may have to rent a hydraulic hammer to break apart some of the larger boulders before the rock can be moved.
The landslide also knocked over a power pole, which caused a power outage to about 260 Ravalli Electric customers, said Ravalli Electric Cooperative communication specialist Melissa Greenwood.
“It was a pretty big mess up there,” Greenwood said.
Ravalli Electric crews worked until about 9 or 10 p.m. Tuesday night to install a temporary pole needed to restore power to local residents, she said.
“We were able to re-route lines to get power to some people, but not all,” Greenwood said. “There were lines laying on the ground when the crews first got there.”
Jay Toups lives off the Nez Perce Road, which is further up the West Fork Road. He was among the first to arrive on the scene of the landslide. He and another traveler found a young man whose vehicle was boxed in by rocks on the road. They worked together to move some of the boulders so he could move his pickup truck.
“He obviously was surprised by the slide,” Toups said. “The skid marks looked to be about 50 to 60 feet long.”
With the large amount of moisture the area received this past winter, coupled with the current rain and freezing temperatures at night, Horat said anyone travelling the West Fork Road and up around Painted Rocks Reservoir should be careful.
“Our operator up there usually makes a run on that road in morning,” Horat said. “He usually moves between four to 12 rocks that have fallen onto the road. When it’s raining like this, it’s not unusual to get some rocks falling off the hillsides.”
There have been several other rock slides that have occurred so far this season, but Horat said none were quite as large as this one.
“We’re dealing with all the moisture that we’ve had this year,” he said. “We’ve not been able to get out and do a lot of road maintenance projects that happen in the spring. All this water is working against us.”