Sudden closures on Highway 4 due to ‘drizzle’ leads to day of frustrations

Sudden closures on Highway 4 due to 'drizzle' leads to day of frustrations

Frustrations reached new heights on Highway 4 Wednesday, as thousands of motorists were forced to turn around due to 12 mm of rain falling and raising the threat of rock slides at Cameron Lake.

Workers repairing the roadside ridge from the Cameron Bluff wildfire were evacuated from the scene, and nets and cranes were brought down after rain swept through before dawn Wednesday. This led to a chaotic scene at the roadblock nearby.

“We’re supposed to go camping on the other side of Port (Alberni), can’t make it. What’s going to happen in the wintertime when the actual rain starts? This was a sprinkle, really,” said Graham Carr.

Nanaimo’s Brian Tutty said when he checked DriveBC online at 3:30 a.m., it said the highway was open to single-lane traffic. When he got there, he stopped in his tracks for six hours, hoping for its reopening.

“If this is what they do with a light little drizzle overnight, good Lord. This is going to be a terrific situation,” said Tutty.

He’s among many urging officials to open Horne Lake Road to traffic.

“This needs to be expropriated, paved immediately, because there is an enormous amount of economic losses here and people going crazy over the issues of access,” said Tutty.

Campers and cars full of tourists turned around after being told it would be 1 a.m. before the highway reopened.

Since Highway 4’s closure wasn’t distributed to media and was only posted to Twitter, many said the closure came too late for them to learn about until they were upon it.

“We didn’t expect it to be closed completely, so that’s a disappointment, but we have to find another hotel or motel somewhere,” said Joe Bigland, a tourist from the Netherlands.

“We are supposed to go three days to Ucluelet,” said Catherine Pouliot, a tourist from Quebec.

According to B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the 12 mm of rain that fell at Cameron Lake exceeded the threshold for safe working conditions, and 24 hours would have to pass before the highway could be reopened.

“Which our geotechnical engineers are on site monitoring the situation,” said Ashok Batti with the ministry.

However, in another unexpected turn late Wednesday afternoon and again only through Twitter, BC Transportation announced Highway 4 was expected to reopen at 5 p.m. — without any official explanation for the sudden change affecting motorists.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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