Crews free campers trapped behind mountain mudslide

Crews free campers trapped behind mountain mudslide »Play Video
The mudslide has blocked Icicle Road near Leavenworth. (Photo courtesy Chelan County Sheriff's Office)
LEAVENWORTH, Wash. - Crews have freed a group of more than 30 campers trapped since Friday by a large mudslide in the upper Icicle Valley of the Cascade Mountains about 10 miles west of Leavenworth.

Susan Peterson, spokeswoman for the Wenatchee River Ranger District, said crews extricated the stranded campers late Saturday afternoon by punching a narrow passage through the mudslide and opening up an evacuation route.

More than 30 cars drove through the opening. Everyone who was stranded was able to get out.

"Some very happy people are going home tonight," she said.

The upper Icicle Road remains closed to the public, however, and will remain closed indefinitely, since the slide is still moving and remains very unstable.

The mudslide trapped people in two campgrounds when it came down Friday afternoon. The slide was up to 10 feet deep in places and about 200 yards wide.

"The soils were super-saturated and it just brought down literally tons and tons of mud and rocks and debris," Peterson said.

The slide began high on a hillside adjacent to Icicle Road and split into several side channels altering the course of 4th of July Creek. Slides continue to flow mud and water across upper Icicle Road and 4th of July trail.

A local man who was camping in the area with his wife told KOMO News that the rushing waters of the creek that run through there changed instantly just before the slide, from greenish-blue to mud-brown.

"All of a sudden it was just totally muddy brown - it changed over in just a few minutes," said Hunter Hansfield.

The trapped campers all got together at one campground and helped each other through the ordeal, Peterson said.

"The people were awesome. They had bonded together. There were people that were not prepared to spend the night, and everbody was just excellent. It was the greatest group of people that have ever been stuck together," Peterson said.

Icicle Road is closed to all public use beyond Eightmile Road because the slide is still active. It will remain closed until further notice.

"Additional debris removal and road repair will be necessary before the road can be opened to the public," said Wenatchee River District Ranger Jeff Rivera.

Officials could not say how long it would take to reopen the road. In the meantime, Ida Creek Campground and Upper and Lower Johnny Creek Campgrounds are closed.

Rivera said the surrounding slopes are unstable and continued wet and cold weather patterns are holding the snowpack late this year.