By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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U.S. Highway 101 at Lake Crescent, closed since Wednesday by a rock slide involving boulders the size of a small car, was reopened as dusk fell on the scenic lake.
The reopening meant that traffic — including transit buses and commercial trucks — avoided a difficult 50-mile detour.
The detour involved taking state Highway 112 from west Port Angeles to Burnt Mountain Road, which is state Highway 113, to Sappho.
A state Department of Transportation geotechnical engineer was at the slide site on the edge of Lake Crescent late Thursday afternoon to determine the hillside's level of stability.
The decision to reopen the road at 6 p.m. was announced about 5:30 p.m. by Barb Maynes, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.
The detour added 10 miles and a half-hour of drive time to the trip between Port Angeles and Forks.
State Highway 112 — the Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway — has a lower speed limit and tighter turns than most of U.S. 101.
“People need to be aware they can't drive 112 like they drive Highway 101,” said Ed Bowen of Clallam Bay, who noted much more traffic on Highway 112 today.
Westbound Highway 101 residential traffic was allowed access as far as East Beach Road at the eastern edge of Lake Crescent.
Eastbound residential traffic accessed Lake Crescent Road at Barnes Point.
The Clallam County Sheriff's Office's day-to-day operations were not affected, said Undersheriff Ron Peregrin.
The Sheriff's Office has two independently operating stations, one in Port Angeles and one in Forks, Peregrin said.
The agency's state and federal law enforcement partners could have stepped in to help if there is an emergency in Forks that requires additional deputies' assistance in a short period of time, he said.
Clallam Transit buses were using the detour today while trying to keep Port Angeles-Forks service intact, reported Terry Weed, the bus agency's general manager.
The No. 14 Forks bus detoured onto Highway 112 at Lairds Corner and returned to U.S. 101 at Sappho. Buses from Forks use the same routing in reverse when eastbound.
In addition, Clallam Transit was using two smaller shuttle buses to maintain service to those areas cut off from bus service between Lairds Corner and Sappho.
One bus ran from Lairds Corner to East Beach Road along U.S. 101, and the second bus ran between Sappho and Lake Crescent Lodge on Highway 101.
Residents who live near Highway 112 reported a major increase in traffic earlier today, and people unfamiliar with the route have been asking local businesses and residents for directions.
There are a number of places where logging operations are in the midst of slash burns, and parts of the twisty road were very smoky with low visibility, Bowen said.
Rain has made recently fallen leaves and needles very slick, and drivers need to slow down, he said.
The worst area where all of those factors come together was near Pillar Point, Bowen said.
Joyce's Blackberry Cafe and other businesses on the detour were enjoying a boost.
“It's definitely an increase in business,” said Roxanne Olsen, owner of Blackberry Cafe.
Confused tourists were stopping at Joyce businesses to ask for directions, and the nearby Joyce General Store was helping those who were disoriented by the unexpected side trip, Olsen said.
Often that meant explaining to visitors that they would need to choose between destinations — Forks via Highway 112 or Lake Crescent via Joyce-Piedmont Road, she said.
Wednesday's rock slide occurred while construction crews working for Olympic National Park were scaling loose rock from the hillside above Highway 101's Milepost 228, adjacent to the lake just east of Barnes Point.
The scaling operation was part of a seven-year maintenance cycle, and the slide took place while a crew was working on the hillside.
Three members of the road maintenance crew were on or under the slide, and two received minor injuries.
Current road information is available by phoning Olympic National Park's information line at 360-565-3131 or by visiting www.nps.gov/olym.
Information for state highways is available by calling 5-1-1, by signing up for email or text alerts via the Internet or at the Transportation Department traffic alert website at www.wsdot.com.
Clallam Transit bus information is updated at www.clallamtransit.com.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.