Mudslides hit Amtrak train, close road near Sekiu

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

SEKIU — Sections of hillside slid onto State Highway 112 within a mile of each other near Sekiu last weekend: once on Saturday morning and again early Sunday, as a spring rainstorm dropped more than an inch of rain on westerm Clallam County.

And near Everett on Sunday, another mudslide resulted in a passenger train derailment.

The first Sekiu slide blocked eastbound lanes at Milepost 5 at approximately 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

State road crews cleared the road and reopened it to traffic by 9:47 a.m., said State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Claudia Bingham-Baker.

Then Sunday, a second mudslide near Milepost 4 between Bull Man Creek and Sekiu River blocked both lanes from
6:30 a.m. until 9:21 p.m.

“This is completely normal activity,” Bingham-Baker said.

“Whenever we get these continual rains, there is a good likelihood of slides,” she said.

Drivers should watch for slides and rocks in the road, and report them to authorities, she said.

The Transportation Department has maintenance crews on duty daily to monitor for slides and to clear roads, she said.

To report a mudslide, people in Clallam and Jefferson counties can phone 360-565-0680.

The mudslide in Everett resulted in an Amtrak passenger train derailment at about 8:50 a.m.

No injuries were reported among the 86 passengers and 11 crew members on the Empire Builder from Chicago.

Mud, trees, rocks and other debris from a mudslide hit the southbound train and knocked three cars off the tracks, said Gus Melonas, Burlington-Northern spokesman.

Burlington-Northern manages the section of track where the mudslide took place.

The last three cars on the train — a dining car and two coach cars — were the only cars that derailed, he said

The train cars remained partially on the tracks but were pushed partly on their sides by a 15-foot wall of debris.

The derailed cars were disconnected from the train, and passengers from the damaged cars were moved to cars at the front of the train.

The train went on to Mukilteo, where passengers were transferred to buses to Seattle.

Amtrak service in the area was temporarily suspended.

The tracks where the Empire Builder was damaged had been closed as recently as March 21 by mudslides.

A freight train derailed on the same stretch of tracks in October.

“This has been one of the most problematic years we’ve faced,” Melonas said. “It’s due to day after day after day of successive rainfall.”



Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.



The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Last modified: April 07. 2013 6:17PM
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