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Before-and-After Video Shows Damage to Wyoming Highway From Landslide

1 week ago 19

Newly released video shows the catastrophic damage caused to a highway that cuts through the mountains of western Wyoming after a landslide took out the critical artery that connects some of the busiest tourist cities of the American West.

Video provided by the Wyoming Department of Transportation shows a complete section of the Teton Pass missing after a landslide last weekend brought railing guards, debris and dozens of trees down with it.

The landslide happened on Wyoming State Highway 22 / Teton Pass at milepost 12.8, which accesses Yellowstone, Jackson Hole and Grand Teton.

Teton Pass
The section of Teton Pass after Saturday's landslide. Wyoming Department of Transportation

The highway, which connects Victor, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming is expected to be closed for an indefinite period of time while crews clear debris and build a detour around the collapsed section. There are interim detours by taking US 26 through Swan Valley and into the Snake River Canyon.

"WYDOT's response through this crisis demonstrates the commitment, passion and ingenuity of our crews," said Wyoming transportation director Darin Westby.

The DOT crews are working with other agencies to secure the area and explore interim access and long-term reconstruction options. Signage will be placed on the road to allow users to access campsite unaffected by both the landslide and the mudslide.

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park remain open.

— Wyoming Department of Transportation (@WYDOTNews) June 10, 2024

"Currently, WYDOT geologists and engineers are confident they can build a safe, temporary detour around the slide area using local fill material and paving two temporary lanes," the department said in a press release. "They are hoping to have a temporary detour open to the public, likely with some strict weight and width restrictions, in a few weeks."

Before the landslide, there were signs the section of the notoriously dangerous highway was in danger. Law enforcement responded to a motorcycle crash around the area on Thursday. The driver was not seriously injured but officials noticed a large break in the pavement. Maintenance and engineering crews were dispatched, according to the state department of transportation.

The road was closed around 11 a.m. so crews could address the cracking and conduct surveying. It was temporarily repaired and reopened three hours later, and drivers were warned of the rough pavement patch and asked to reduce their speeds.

Then, the next morning, DOT crews were notified of a mudslide two miles away.

"Crews worked all day to clear the mudslide at milepost 15," the department said in a press release, noting that the Idaho Transportation Department also assisted.

Engineers and geologists determined the cause of the mudslide was likely due to the heavy water saturation and spring runoff.

"With warmer weather, the chance of further issues will decrease," according to the department.

During the day on Friday, engineers noted that the ground continued to move at the milepost, nicknamed the Big Fill Slide. It had moved upward of 10 to 12 inches in some areas. The patchwork was separating.

The road was closed, and crews went to work on more permanent repairs. At some point early Saturday, the roadway at milepost 12.8 collapsed entirely and took both lanes of travel with it.

No one was injured, and no equipment was damaged.

Crews are continuing to manage the other mudslide at milepost 15, which was unrelated to the landslide down the road, according to the department.

Geologists and engineers are working to provide more drainage to the affected area by installing a box culvert, or reinforced concrete or metal structures, according to the department.

"I want to express my gratitude to WYDOT Director Westby and his entire team for their efforts to rapidly develop and implement a plan to get traffic moving over Teton Pass again as quickly as possible," Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said.

Gordon issued an emergency declaration in response to the catastrophic failure on June 8. The announcement will allow the state to access additional resources from the Federal Highway Administration to begin the substantial repairs required, according to Gordon.

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