"I miss the Coquihalla:" Highway 3 mudslide leads to 11-hour journey home

Nov 23 2021, 7:11 pm

A couple trying to drive home to the BC Interior Monday got caught behind the latest mudslide on Highway 3, turning their journey into an 11-hour ordeal.

The slide came down Monday morning between the Sunshine Valley and Allison Pass Summit, east of Hope, BC, according to DriveBC. The route is now open for a single lane of alternating traffic.

Highway 3 was one of only two road connections open between Metro Vancouver and the Interior record-breaking rain devastated BC’s highway system. Traffic was snarled once again when it closed Monday.

Wendy Steenblok set out Monday morning from Langley with her husband and two Chihuahuas trying to make it to their home near Princeton, BC. They both work at the Port and stay in an RV between shifts, heading back home when they get longer breaks.

They used Highway 7 to get to Hope, and after three hours on the road arrived at the Highway 3 junction around 12:30 pm, when Steenblok saw a flagger approach them.

“You just knew, the look on her face,” Steenblok said.

The flagger told them there had just been a mudslide, and there was no estimated time of reopening. Transport trucks were still coming through the other way, meaning they had passed the hazardous area before the mountainside came down.

Steenblok and her husband turned around, heading back to the Lower Mainland. They knew they could either go up Highway 99 through Lillooet or through the US, both of which were long journeys on unfamiliar highways.

As they were coming back to the Fraser Valley around 4 pm, they heard on the radio that Highway 3 had one lane open through the mudslide.

They turned around a second time, retracing their route to Hope.

“We had our Christmas tunes on. We had each other,” Steenblok said, adding they’d also packed extra water, food, fuel, and sleeping bags in case they got stuck.

When they made it to the junction a second time, a flagger verified they lived in the Interior and let them onto Highway 3.

When they passed the mudslide, crews waved them through despite the poor weather.

“We felt so safe going through there,” Steenblok said. “I was worried it was going to be an eroded highway with a river rushing.”

She added the Protech Traffic Control flaggers were “all smiles” even though it was raining and snowing.

After 11 hours of straight driving, Steenblok and her husband made it home to set up for Christmas.

“I miss the Coquihalla,” she said. “There are no switchbacks, no cliffs to fall off.”

The Coquihalla, which provides a faster route to some parts of the Interior, is not expected to reopen for several months after rain and mudslides ripped away vast chunks of the road.

coquihalla at juliet

Coquihalla Highway/Juliet/BC Ministry of Transportation/Flickr

For now, Steenblok is grateful to be home.

“It’s not something you can blame on anybody,” she said of the widespread highway closures. “It is what it is, you do your best and go with the flow.”

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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