Forest Grove pair sees Highway 6 mudslide on Spring Break trip

by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF AKEKE THOMPSON - It was still raining as Highway 6 finally opened after a landslide and 12-year-old Akeke Thompson shot a photo through his car window as they passed these boulders on the roadway.A mudslide on Highway 6 near Manning provided a Spring Break lesson in geology for 12-year-old Akeke Thompson as he and his grandmother, Debby de Carlo of Forest Grove, traveled home from the coast March 26.

“We went to the beach even though it was raining, and we stopped at the Tillamook Forestry Center on the way,” said de Carlo. It was “too cloudy and rainy to see whales” in Oceanside, so the pair took a tour of the Tillamook Cheese Factory instead.

On their way back toward Portland, they were delayed by the mudslide, which poured 300 to 400 yards of dirt and debris onto the highway just after 2 p.m., closing the thoroughfare in both directions in the Oregon Coast Range Wednesday afternoon.

“There was this long line of cars,” said Akeke, a sixth-grader at Chief Joseph/Ockley Green K-8 School in Portland. “We could see the landslide. I thought, ‘What is going on?’”

It was the wide-eyed youngster’s first time seeing a slide. He grabbed his pocket-size Canon camera and started snapping photos through the raindrops.

“There were trucks moving big boulders around,” noted Akeke, who got a shot of an uprooted tree coming down the mountain. De Carlo said she thought there were at least three rocks that were 3 feet in diameter at the site. “They were huge,” she said.

During a week in which people were already on alert after a deadly landslide in Oso, Wash., near Seattle, the local slide — about eight miles west of Glenwood near the turnoff to Brown’s Camp — was a bit unsettling. The experience made de Carlo feel “vulnerable” as the pair sat in traffic for 15 minutes, waiting to be waved through the one-lane road closure.

But for Akeke, it was more of a wonder. “I felt safe in the car,” he said.

While Oregon Department of Transportation crews checked out the slide and set about clearing the road of debris, he and de Carlo had a chance to talk about the event and what might have caused it.

“When it rains a lot the mountain gets muddy and the land starts to slide,” Akeke said. “It takes everything with it,” he added.

Later that evening, de Carlo and her grandson watched television news reports about the slide, learning the amount of mud, rocks, trees and other debris that landed on the highway equaled the volume of 40 dump truck loads.

“We talked about how there are risks all over the world. There are tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, drought,” said de Carlo. “The earth is always moving and changing.”

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