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Campground Worker Recounts Escape from Mudslide

June 15, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Rob Miller was standing on a log in the middle of a mudslide across the upper Icicle Road near Leavenworth, Wash., when he heard something that took him by surprise.

He knew no railroad tracks were nearby. But what he heard sounded like a freight train.

“I jumped down and started running, and by the time I got to my truck, the mud was halfway to my calves,” he told The Wenatchee World.

After he made it the 20 yards across the mud, he hopped in his truck and backed up 50 or 60 feet to get below the slide area.

Miller had walked out on the mudslide on Friday (June 10) to see how big it was before reporting it to the U.S. Forest Service when a second surge of mud and water came rushing toward him. He and his wife, Ardie, work for Thousand Trails Management Services, managing campgrounds in the Icicle and Tumwater Canyon areas.

“It was scary. You could hear those rocks crashing together, and the water running. I knew I could be in trouble, so I ran like a son-of-a-gun,” he said in a Monday telephone interview. He said it looked like lava flowing down a volcano, only it moved faster.

The slide trapped more than 30 campers and day hikers overnight.

After notifying the Forest Service, Miller stayed to alert travelers to the problem, while his wife called friends and relatives who were trapped to let them know they were OK.

He said she knew who to call because they had radio contact with one of the camp hosts above the slide.

Campers shared food, clothes and camping equipment with day hikers, and everyone spent a peaceful night at campgrounds until the road reopened on Saturday.

Miller said at least two more surges sent more mud and debris across the road before it was stable enough for road crews to dig a path through for cars and trailers to cross through on Saturday evening.

He said it was the third major slide up the Icicle Road since he started managing the campgrounds 16 years ago. They also cleared two smaller ones without help.

One at Eightmile Creek a few weeks ago was the worst. That one got cleaned up just in time for Memorial Day, but now the road is closed again.

“It’s one of those years when you can’t get a break. Whenever they get one open, something else closes,” he said of all the mudslides.

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