Isolated Town Still Waits for Slide-Wrecked Road to Open

Washington State troopers turn back a resident from the area of a massive landslide on Highway 530, approximately 2 miles from the slide on March 24.PAUL JOSEPH BROWN / AFP - Getty Images

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The people of Darrington, Wash., who have endured epic commutes since a March 22 mudslide wiped out parts of a highway that connects them to the rest of the state, will have to wait months for relief.

The highway, SR 530, remains buried under 100,000 cubic yards of debris, which could take up to three months to remove, the Washington Department of Transportation told NBC affiliate KING5. The road probably won't reopen to traffic until fall.

That means that Darrington will remain relatively isolated, with access to Seattle limited to winding side roads. Commutes (and gas bills) have more than doubled, local business is drying up, and residents worry about the effect on the timber industry. Municipal officials worry about the coming tourist season, and residents leaving for good.

Even so, the town considers itself relatively lucky, since it did not suffer the deaths and physical damage that struck nearby Oso, about 15 miles away, where dozens of people died in a sudden wave of mud.

Darrington residents generally have to take the road north to State Route 20, which connects with the all-important Interstate 5.

A one-way dirt and gravel road known as Mountain Loop was opened for local and emergency access only.

The DOT told KING5 it is considering opening a single-lane access road, with restrictions.

Highway 530 disappears into a massive mudslide that destroyed Oso, Wash. on March 31.RICK WILKING / Reuters