An unidentified man cuts a fallen tree as other motorists help clear the Historic Columbia River Highway after a tree fell on it near the Vista House this afternoon. Photo by Bryan Dorr, Jan. 19, 2009.

Downed trees briefly halt HCRH traffic

By Bryan Dorr
Monday, January 19, 2009, 7:58 PM PST

COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, Ore. – Strong winds toppled trees onto the popular scenic highway in the Columbia River Gorge this afternoon, briefly blocking traffic until motorists helped to clear the road.

A tree fell onto the narrow, windy stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway along a steep hillside between Larch Mountain Road and the Vista House.

A motorist with a chainsaw chopped up the obstructing fallen timber. He then wrapped a chain around the log and dragged the 8-foot log several yards down the road with his pick-up truck, then released it on the shoulder for later retrieval.

The westbound lane reopened a few minutes later, but a large tree root remained in the eastbound lane of the two-lane road. A Multnomah County Sheriff deputy at the scene directed the traffic around the hefty tree root.

Three miles east, a smaller tree also fell onto the highway at a curvy switchback near Latourell. Another motorist with a chainsaw sliced up the fallen tree as other motorists helped remove the debris from the road by hand in just a few minutes.

No one was injured and no vehicles were damaged from the fallen trees at both locations.

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