A landslide in the Snake River Canyon sent mud, rock and trees across highway 26/89 Saturday night, forcing the Wyoming Department of Transportation to close the corridor that connects Jackson Hole to Star Valley.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning on Sunday afternoon, alerting residents and motorists to the possibility of additional slides in the Snake River Canyon and in Hoback Canyon.
The Snake River slide began to encroach early Saturday morning onto the westbound lane of the highway at milepost 127, near a feature on the Snake River called Taco Hole, WYDOT reported. On Sunday, officials said the major commuter route could remain closed for the next several days.
Jackson maintenance crews worked throughout Saturday to move debris and keep the roadway open. But by Saturday night, the slide had accelerated, and two front-end loaders and six trucks were not enough to keep up, a report from WYDOT stated.
Jackson maintenance foreman Ed Smith described the area as “a big, oozing blob.”
Sunday morning, Jackson crews were joined by trucks from Afton. John Eddins, WYDOT District 3 district engineer, estimated debris was reaching the highway at the rate of a couple of feet an hour, according to the report, and that “efforts are proving to be futile as the debris is moving across the roadway as fast as the crews can load it.”
The press release stated it was “questionable” whether the crews would be able to remove the debris and open the canyon highway for Monday morning’s commute. Sunday afternoon, a travel advisory on WYDOT’s website stated the closure would remain in effect for the next several days.
At 4:17 p.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service in Riverton issued a flash flood warning for debris flows due to melting snow for southwestern Teton, northwestern Lincoln and northwestern Sublette counties.
“At 3:34 p.m. … Emergency Manag-ement reported flash flooding across the warned area,” according to the Weather Service alert. In addition to the slide that closed the canyon, “Other areas in the Snake River Canyon along highway 89 … as well as Hoback Canyon along highway 189 may experience similar debris flows which could rapidly cross highways.”
The warning was to remain in effect until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
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