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Mudslides bury North Cascades highway, stranding hikers and cutting major route

The Washington State Department of Transportation says eight mudslides have buried SR 20, cutting off a major east-west route across the Cascades. (WSDOT image)
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The Washington State Department of Transportation says an emergency contract for big bulldozers and other heavy equipment could help clear weekend mudslides that have closed the popular North Cascades Highway much sooner than first thought.

WSDOT Spokesman Jeff Adamson says it was feared cleanup could keep the popular Highway 20 closed for the next week, but now there's hope a private company will be able to get it reopened by this weekend.

"Having the team up there today has just made everybody much more optimistic about how quickly the roadway might be able to reopen."

Eight significant slides have closed the highway from Rainy Pass, 10 miles to the west. Adamson says the biggest slide is about a quarter-mile long, covering two lanes with rock, trees and mud 25 feet deep.

"The biggest one is far beyond anything our own equipment can address," he says.

The washout of a gravel road also stranded 65 hikers 23 miles off Highway 20 at Marblemount. Maintenance crews had to quickly build a temporary road to allow 65 stranded hikers to go home.

Marblemount Wilderness Information Center Supervisor Rosemary Seifried said Monday evening that crews were able to complete the passage a day after the roadway was washed out, dumping truckloads of gravel into a culvert.

The hikers were able to cross the culvert Monday night, Seifried said. That road will now remain closed until a permanent fix can be constructed.

In the meantime, Adamson says a number of people are asking if they can bike or hike in the area around the slide. "We can't legally say you can't, but don't."

The Associated Press contributed this report.

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