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Sirry Amelican
541 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Idaho Officials Find Way Around Massive Mud Slide That Has Trapped Elk City Residents

The people who live in Elk City are still trapped in their tiny Idaho County town, after a massive mud and tree slide wiped out the only road, Idaho Highway 14. Since Thursday, only mail and medicine has made it into town, via snowmobile. But the Idaho Transportation Department says help is coming.

The slide took out both sides of the highway and ITD hasn’t said how long it will take to clear the mountain of mud and debris ten miles west of Elk City. So Tuesday they plan to open an old Forest Service road to get people and supplies in and out.

The detour route (Newsome Creek Forest Road #1199) will open Tuesday and then stay open every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until the slide is cleared. It’s a 20-mile bypass through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest.

The detour will work as follows: There will be one downriver trip at 8 a.m. and one upriver trip at 3 p.m. For the morning trip, drivers will meet at the Elk City Laundromat. The number of cars will be limited because they will be driving on an unpaved road that was recently covered in five feet of snow. It's been plowed, but officials are worried too many cars could make the road impassable.

Meanwhile, Idaho County is working to find ways to bring fuel and other necessities to the people living above the slide. Idaho 14 is the only way in or out of Elk City, Red River, Orogrande, American River and Dixie during the winter.

The Idaho Statesman says 250 people live in Elk City and another 20 live in Dixie, 20 miles further. Elk City is 60 miles east of Grangeville.

Sirry Amelican
541 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
GRANGEVILLE - The Idaho County commissioners signed a declaration of county disaster Tuesday and are seeking assistance from the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security to deal with the landslide on State Highway 14 to Elk City.

The declaration estimates it will take three or more weeks to repair the slide that collapsed Thursday at milepost 39, spilling debris 40 feet deep over about 500 feet of roadway and into the South Fork of the Clearwater River. Electrical service was interrupted to more than 650 account holders, and debris removal, slope stabilization and highway road surface repair is expected to cost more than $1.5 million, according to the declaration.

Dave Kuisti, district engineer for the Idaho Transportation Department at Lewiston, said bids were advertised Monday night for a contractor to get up to the landslide area with a large excavator and trucks to begin clearing material from the bottom. The department is also seeking a permit from the U.S. Forest Service so it can begin removal of unstable rocks and dirt from the top of the slide area.

Crews will have to work cautiously, Kuisti said, especially when trying to dislodge a huge boulder about the size of a two-story building that is stuck on the hillside.

Commissioner Skip Brandt asked whether the department could open a temporary road along the bottom edge of the slide to allow gas, propane and other large vehicles to pass while the excavation is going on.

Kuisti said surveyors are considering that possibility, but won't know for a while whether it is an option.

Meanwhile, the first regular convoy of motorists left and returned to Elk City over Newsome Creek Road 1199 Tuesday with no problems reported, Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings said. Although commissioners specified the escorted convoys could take place only at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., Chief Deputy Jim Gorges said cars began rolling out of Elk City at 6 a.m. And it appears a logging truck went through in the middle of the night, he said, along with another vehicle that slid off the road but managed to get back out.

The commissioners and others at Tuesday's meeting discussed how to handle the situation of people not cooperating with the scheduled convoy times. Officials are concerned that if the road, which is a single-lane gravel surface with icy, slushy and muddy spots, is overused it will become impassable and all routes out of Elk City will be shut off until the highway reopens.

Giddings expressed confidence his department could handle the traffic, but one man in the audience noted there is a federal closure on the Newsome Creek Road except for the approved times. People who violate the closure could be subject to prosecution.

"We have to get the message out that's not acceptable," Brandt said of people ignoring the closure.

Giddings said his deputies and road department workers are monitoring the road when it is open. A 24-hour patrol is possible if the commissioners want one, but he said it would be expensive.

The commissioners did not make a decision about an around-the-clock patrol. But they did agree to move the travel times to 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. The evening departure time could be pushed back as far as 9 p.m. or later, Gorges said, if the weather warms up and the Newsome Road gets too soft.

Giddings said people wishing to travel to and from Elk City should check the sheriff's office Facebook page daily or call the dispatch office at (208) 983-1100 for updates.

Plans were being made Tuesday to haul gas, propane and other essentials into Elk City today. Brandt said that the county's garbage hauler, Simmons Sanitation, moved a container to the South Fork station along the highway toward Grangeville for people wishing to haul out trash.

Sirry Amelican
541 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Elk City News: Thanks goes to helpers during slide

I am pretty sure that the whole community is thankful to the heroic efforts of our post office personnel, specifically Eric Nitz, in getting the mail in and out of Elk City despite the slide that has hemmed us in. Isn’t there a saying that “Neither snow, nor sleet, nor … can keep them from their trusty rounds…” or something to that effect? Guess we should include landslides in that saying! Thank you, Eric and Teresa!

Kudos and a great big thanks also goes to John Enos and Rob Robinson for their untiring work in opening up an alternate route for us, Forest Road 1199 that goes from Elk Summit to Newsome and on out to Highway 14. They spent 40 hours in the last three days to make this happen. Thank, you, John and Rob!

Our county commissioners have been taking the lead in working with the Forest Service on this alternate route as well as with ITD on getting the road open. Thank you, commissioners!

The Forest Service hosted a meeting Monday afternoon. Terry Nevius, the district ranger, did an excellent job of informing us, fielding questions, asking for the community’s input, and dealing with some frustration by residents. The frustration dealt mostly with medical issues and doctor appointments. People were assured that any medical emergency would take top priority. Of course, there is LifeFlight for those medical emergencies that need immediate removal depending on weather. Thank you, Terry!

Because the alternate route is over a Forest Road that had not been maintained since the shutting down of logging, it has the potential to break down in areas and becoming a muddy bog hole. Therefore, the Idaho County Sheriff and the Forest Service have determined to have the road open for through traffic at specified times and days. As of this writing, and as Terry said, this is a fluid situation, the road will be open at 8 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for outbound traffic and 3 p.m. on those days for incoming traffic. These times will be reevaluated on Friday to determine if the wishes of the community members will be honored for the times of 6 a.m. for outbound traffic and 6 p.m. for inbound traffic.

To go out, folks need to meet at the laundromat by 6 a.m. to be escorted over the road by Hank, the facilities and fleet manager at Red River Ranger station. To come back in, folks need to meet at the Newsome turnout on Highway 14 by 6 p.m. to be escorted back in. Only high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles with chains, snowmobiles, and off-road vehicles will be allowed on the road. Only local traffic, Elk City residents, will be allowed to traverse the road. Of course the exceptions will be the mail and UPS, but possibly propane and gas trucks if the road is in the condition to handle those heavy vehicles.

The Idaho County Sheriff’s office is an integral part of the planning and operation of these contingency plans. We appreciate their input and direction during this time. Thank you!

Apparently the state is putting out bids to clear the highway. Estimates of when the highway will be open vary from one to two months. They could possibly put in one-lane traffic at the bottom of the slide before that, but that will be contingent on safety issues of both workers and drivers.

Getting groceries and restaurant supplies and school lunches in were also discussed and we were assured that would be one of the priorities. I am sure many people have a decent supply of food here; after all, we are pretty remote. I know some people made fun of those who stocked up for disaster situations like Y2K but maybe it was not so crazy after all. FEMA has a website dedicated to disaster preparedness. Go to,, or There are also many other sites that deal with disaster preparedness.

A big thank you also to Avista for their work on getting electricity restored so quickly, within 40 hours of the disaster. Thank you!

We have had several calls, as I am sure many of you have had, about how folks are doing up here. One was from Eric Barger of the Tribune who thought we may have had a run on hotel rooms with all of the people stuck up here. I assured him that there were very few in that category. I also reassured him that people who live up here are pretty resourceful and self-sufficient and that, barring any medical emergency, we would get along fine. My husband told a caller in response to the statement that we were stuck up here, he said that “No, you are stuck out there!”

We also got another call from a truckers’ radio program asking about the road and any possible problems/issues. We assured him that there are routes out over the snow on snowmobiles that a few people have taken advantage of and again how self-sufficient we are up here.

Although there are some new people who have moved into town this last year, I can’t speak for them but there is always someone willing to help in emergencies.

It might be good to have a section of the bulletin board at the post office dedicated to a list of people who are of necessity, making a trip out and are willing to pick up things such as food, prescription meds, etc., for others.

Sirry Amelican
541 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
This is why I prep. I count on the ineptitude of government when something really matters.

Hello legislators, please see the news release below regarding the rock slide on Idaho 14. I would also like to share some additional information about ITD’s actions since the slide and our plans to resolve this emergency. Please let me know if you have any questions or input. Much thanks, mm

· The slide occurred in the late afternoon Feb. 18 and buried a 500-foot section of Idaho 14 in rock and debris nearly 20 feet deep about 10 miles west of Elk City.

· ITD crews were already on site, clearing minor rock fall from the highway when the slide occurred. They have been working non-stop since then, when safety conditions have allowed. ITD has so far removed 2,200 cubic yards of material from the slide site.

· Avista worked immediately to reroute power lines around the slide area. Power has been restored to the residents of Elk City and surrounding communities.

· Crews immediately began clearing logs from above the slide area. Work on a short access road to the top of the slide during the Feb. 20-21 weekend enabled logging to take place on the upper portion of the slide. Stabilizing the upper segment was critical to the beginning of debris removal.

· Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association crews have opened USFS Roads 307 and 307D and pioneered an access road to the top of the slide to enable logging to take place on the upper portion of the slide.

· An emergency contract is being developed to hire a contractor to work seven days a week during the day to clear a majority of the slide material, starting with rocks and debris above the slide and then removing the material from the road.

· The contract bid is expected to be opened by Tuesday, March 8, and the contractor will begin work within 48 hours of the bid opening, allowing time to mobilize equipment and workers. ITD expects SH 14 to be reopened in 4-5 weeks (early April), weather permitting.

· If conditions allow and the road remains a viable option, the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office will continue to detour area residents around the slide on an old forest service road until Idaho 14 is reopened.

· Idaho County is hosting a public meeting March 10 at noon in Elk City to update area residents and other interested parties of the cleanup effort

· This cleanup effort has been a comprehensive partnership involving the U.S. Forest Service, Idaho County, the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, the county road and bridge department, Avista and Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protection Association. It could not be accomplished without the additional support of Elk City area residents.



Federal authorities release $500,000 in emergency funds for Idaho 14 rockslide in Idaho County

LEWISTON - The Idaho Transportation Department will receive $500,000 in emergency funds from the Federal Highway Administration to help repair extensive damage caused by a massive landslide Feb. 18 that closed Idaho 14 approximately 10 miles west of Elk City in Idaho County.

The closure blocked the only main route for several communities in the area.

The release of funds was approved Monday (Feb. 29), just days after Idaho Governor C.L. Butch Otter declared the county a disaster area and ITD completed the request for aid.

A temporary detour route using an old U.S. forest-service road is operating several days per week for essential traffic, and some cleanup of slide material is already underway.

The state will receive $500,000 in federal “quick release” funds so repair work can begin as damage assessments continue.

These Quick Release funds are extremely important to address costs associated with early disaster responses,” said Mel Coulter, ITD’s Emergency Program supervisor. “The disaster declaration by Gov. Otter was the key factor in allowing us to apply for and receive the special FHWA funds.”

The FHWA’s Emergency Relief program provides funding for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events.

“Emergency Relief funding will help Idaho address the needed repairs and restore travel for these communities,” said Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “We know residents want to regain their mobility as soon as possible.”

Sirry Amelican
541 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Day 20 behind the slide

From an email

The county commission meeting was today and included an “Elk City Slide Work Session” at 1pm with “various” personages in attendance. Apart from Hank Godwin, I believe I was the only upriver type present. The group included State Transportation from Lewiston and Boise, Forest Service, County sheriff, road, disaster bosses, and media. It was a full room, so likely others not identified.

I recorded the meeting, but from my notes processed through my deaf hearing, I gleaned the following:

The state indicated that bids were put out on Friday. Contractors conducted a walk-through of the slide site on Sunday. 4 Bids were received and opened this morning at 10A.M. Low bidder was West something out of Spokane, at 1.34 million dollars, DeAtley 2nd at 1.638 million, Debco 3rd at 1.879 million and someone else at 4th, at 2.239 million.

It was indicated that the contract would be consummated today.

The state specified that the contractor would exert maximum effort in fulfilling the work, with providing a public use by-pass as soon as it was safe to do so. No hard, fast time frame has been identified to open access/bypass because of safety/slide stability unknowns. Initially, the contractor would be restricted to daylight operations, with work commencing at the top of the slide. The commission has requested a by-pass date be identified/provided as quickly as possible.

Apart from the 1199 road, no other alternative route has been identified by the state.

Gene Meinen indicated that the Elk City Ambulance has expressed grave concerns for their future transport use of either over the top or down the highway.

Bennett property on top of the Motherlode has been contracted for slide material deposition, running up and down the Red River side for access. Gene Meinen expressed great concern for it’s ability to hold up or be maintained. I mention this, because the state to date had only identified 3 locations. That, their site at Santiam which is near capacity and another small volume location. If you know of another place, they’d love to hear from you (get paid to get rock you can crush for gravel??)

1199 issues:

As of this past Sunday morning, the sheriff had intended to close the 1199 after Monday’s transit. Because of the colder temps, groceries, gas, etc. were allowed to come in and out today. The appointed road evaluators (county road/deputy/USFS) commonly expressed the tenuous usability of the 1199 to any but emergency use, but advised a day to day approach. Closing after Wed. transit was discussed, but with a Thursday meeting in Elk City requiring access for mucky-mucks, it was felt inappropriate to close it before then.

So, given the weather forecast, if you’re thinking you need to do something downriver, you better make the Wed. morning out and return with the important folks on Thurs. All bets are off after that, either for the 1199 or highway 14.

I stand to be corrected on any of the above, but I do have a recording. I’m working off my notes to get this to you ASAP.

Bear Fighter
1,605 Posts
As most of us around here know, if you choose to live in Elk City, you're more than likely prepared for such a situation as we had with the slide on 14.

A lot of people move out to the toolies but still drive to town three times a day to change their mind. They're the ones who won't make it.

1,537 Posts
Whats wrong with the airport airport? Even with snow small planes should be able to land and take off.

I am a south east pilot so planes, snow and mountains have never come into play with me.

Sirry Amelican
541 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
No airport, just airstrips everywhere. Not a lot of private aircraft ownership here. Airstrips get more use by snowmobiles.

Anyway, the highway is open daily at the bottom of the slide for downriver traffic for an hour in the morning, and upriver in the afternoon.
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