Idaho Highway 21 reopens after 6.5 earthquake

STANLEY, Idaho (KLIX)-A mountain highway in Idaho is back open thanks to road crews that moved thousands of pounds of rock and debris a little more than a week since an earthquake shook the region. Idaho Highway 21 had been closed off several hours before the earthquake struck on the evening of March 31, just northeast of the small mountain community of Stanley.

The 6.5 magnitude quake caused several large boulders and earth to fall on the highway between Lowman and Stanley, while aftershocks sent more landslides down onto the roadway for several days after, according to the Idaho Transportation Department. “The earthquake was the second-largest on record in Idaho,” said Bill Nicholson in a prepared statement, who leads the Avalanche Crew in Lowman. “I’ve been here thirteen years and never seen so much rock and earth hit the highway. Thankfully, we have a great partnership with USGS and the Geophysics Department at Boise State. They kept us updated on conditions, which helped us understand the situation and know when it was safe to get back in and start cleaning up.”

Because of the numerous aftershocks that rattled the area road crews couldn't start clearing the highway until Sunday, April 5. Workers were able to remove an estimated 2,000 cubic yards of debris from the highway, but some boulders were too big to move so they had to be downsized using what is called a Boulder Buster, see video below.

ITD says drivers using Highway 21 need to be cautious anyway on that stretch of roadway because of season rockfall. More repairs to the roadway will be made later this summer.

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