Flooded I-5 in Washington state may reopen to trucks tonight

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A 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5, which has been shut down since Monday, Dec. 3, because of flooding in the Pacific Northwest, may reopen to commercial trucks tonight, the Washington state Department of Transportation announced today, Dec. 6. A fierce Pacific Northwest storm killed at least seven people and caused widespread flooding that forced hundreds of people from their homes.

As floodwaters slowly recede, WSDOT crews are fixing the highway surface and replacing barriers to get one lane of I-5 through Chehalis, Wash., open in each direction for commercial vehicles more than 10,000 gross vehicle weight. WSDOT anticipates that one lane of I-5 could be open in each direction tonight; the lanes likely will have a gravel surface. WSDOT hopes to open the freeway to passenger vehicles and smaller commercial vehicles on Friday, Dec. 7, after a second lane in each direction is open.

About three-quarters of a mile of the interstate remains under water; as a result, the closure of I-5 near Chehalis remains in effect. WSDOT will update the public via its website, www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I5/2007Flood/, and through the media, and will continue to provide updates overnight as conditions change.

Commercial vehicle parking is not allowed on I-5 shoulders or in highway lanes. Any trucks parked on the shoulder or in travel lanes will be routed through current WSDOT interstate detours.

During the past 24 hours, crews have repaired more than 100 feet of damaged pavement and filled a large sinkhole on I-5 at the West Street overpass in Chehalis. The public can view I-5 flooding and repairs using live snapshot cameras on WSDOT’s website via www.wsdot.wa.gov/.

Drier weather is allowing WSDOT crews to assess damage and repair roads. WSDOT has had 64 sections of roadway closed; 48 are now open, and 16 are still closed as a result of mudslides, damage or flooding.

The storm later moved out to the Upper Midwest, where it dumped as much of 9 inches of snow in parts of North Dakota. Western Ohio was predicted to get as much as 7 inches before the storm moved out Wednesday, Dec. 5. The snow created delays at several Midwestern airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and caused a bus crash in Indiana that injured 17 people, authorities told the AP.