Life in Bay Center on Willapa Bay

Living in a maritime fishing village in Southwest Washington state on Willapa Bay

State Route 6 Remains Closed West of Pe Ell

original article with photos at Chronicle Online, Dec 10, 2007.

Road Closures and Status According to Lewis County

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State Route 6 is closed at McCormick Creek Road west of Pe Ell due to a landslide and is expected to remain closed for at least a couple of weeks, according to WSDOT.

— Airport Road Centralia is closed.

— Anderson Road near Winlock Vader Road is washed out.

— Beam Road in Chehalis is open to local traffic only.

— Beaver Creek Road in Chehalis is down to one lane due to slide.

— Chandler Road near Dryad is closed due to destroyed bridge, with remaining section open to local traffic only.

— Cole Road in Pe Ell is inaccessible due to slide.

— Goff Road is open to local traffic only.

— Hunt Street in Centralia has 4 to 6 inches of standing water with 12 to 18 inches in the 500 block.

— Hyppa Road East in Centralia is closed.

— King Road in Winlock is closed from Boistfort to Lake Creek Road, with the rest rough but passable.

— Leudinghaus Road at Doty is very rough and open to local traffic only.

— Lost Valley Road in Pe Ell is closed between Roundtree and Boistfort roads.

— Louisiana Avenue in Chehalis is open between West Street and Chamber Way.

— McCormick Creek Road in Pe Ell is inaccessible due to slide on state Route 6.

— Meskill Road at Doty is damaged and open to local traffic only.

Today drivers can take a wide open Interstate 5, turn west at state Route 6 in Chehalis, and drive through the devastation zone all the way to Pe Ell. But one mile farther, two massive landslides one mile apart from each other have cut off about 18 homes and halted the direct transportation route from Pe Ell and Lewis County to Raymond.

Residents of the small towns of Willapa, Menlo, Lebam and Frances located on the west side of the landslides on state Route 6, many with ties to the Twin Cities, now must either reroute north along Highway 101 up to Montesano and then east to akville, or take 101 south along the Pacific Ocean coast, east along the Columbia River to Longview, and then back north long Interstate 5.

Washington State Department of Transportation workers were bringing down more dirt from the steep and logged-out ridge that lumped down onto state Route 6, closing the road Tuesday early afternoon just a mile west of Pe Ell. They have been working during daylight hours only, moving dirt starting on Saturday, to clear the slide.

A similar landslide came down a mile west, cutting off the community of McCormick and Walville located on state Route 6, former mill towns that once were at the heart of economic activity in Lewis County.

“We’re trying to stabilize the top (of the ridge),” said Tom Kuess, a worker with Scarsella Brothers, which has contracted with WSDOT to do some of the dirt clearing. “It’s still moving up there.”

Russ Smith, a transportation engineer with WSDOT, said he expects state Route 6 to be closed for a couple more weeks.

“We’re trying to get it open for emergency access only,” Smith said. “That’s the first priority.”

Locals that know the area have opened up a route around the two landslides on old logging roads maintained by the State Department of Natural Resources. Emergency personnel are also able to take the winding logging roads down into the area cut off from the two landslides.

Some residents of that area have been asked to evacuate, as access is limited and electricity has been out since the floods egan. County PUD workers are attempting to put in a temporary power line today into the shut-off community. Smith estimated power might be back on for that area as early as Tuesday.

Luellyn Ainsworth, 87, lives in her stone house on state Route 6 along Rock Creek in the area between the two slides. Despite losing power and Pe Ell firefighters pleading with her to evacuate, she sits ensconced in her home, along with her Chihuahua Marco Polo. Firefighters, using the mucky logging roads, brought in a gas-powered generator earlier in the week, allowing her to have power for three to four hours each day. When the power first went out, she was cut off from all information as she had no radio as well.
“Sunday night started raining real bad,” Ainsworth said. “During the night everything hit the fan.”

Nicknamed Loulou, she’s held up pretty good, she said, and even enjoyed her first warm meal Thursday afternoon of chicken and rice soup she heated up on an antique 1929 Home Comfort Wood Cook Stove. By Saturday night, she was sitting comfortably in an easy chair with Marco Polo in her lap just a few feet from a warm fire in her fireplace insert, watching her favorite television station, Rural Farm Development Television (RFDTV).

“By Saturday I got to hear all my country and western, and watch the ‘Big Joe Polka Show,’ oh, I love that. It makes me want o get up and dance.”

A handwritten note is attached to a box just next to her television. The saying by Mother Theresa states, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

The words bring comfort to Loulou, who despite the bravery and “independence” that prompts her to say in her home, finally broke down and sobbed Saturday morning during a phone call with her granddaughter.

“I read (the Mother Theresa saying) everyday to get through the tough days,” she said.

As far as the landslides and the road closure, she vows to remain in her home and looks forward to electricity being restored and being able to once again travel to Pe Ell to play pinochle at the Pe Ell Senior Center, which for now is closed. She also has her own beliefs on the landslides.

“This stupid flood came on, and the east landslide, this one here was clear cut, it was absolutely bald,” she said about the hill above state Route 6. “That’s dumb. It looks terrible, but I never thought of landslides.”


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