Highway 4 on Vancouver Island reopens after rockfall caused Boxing Day closure

Highway 4 on Vancouver Island reopens after rockfall caused Boxing Day closure

Highway 4 on Vancouver Island has reopened after being closed through the morning and early afternoon on Boxing Day.

DriveBC first tweeted about the closure at 6:15 p.m. Monday, saying that there were rocks on the road for a 10-kilometre stretch between Cathedral Grove Provincial Park and Koen Road. It said Monday evening that debris flow and falling rocks had necessitated the closure.

The highway reopened a little over 20 hours later, just after 2:20 p.m. on Tuesday, according to DriveBC.

The closure came months after the route, the only major road connecting Tofino, Port Alberni and Ucluelet to the rest of Vancouver Island, saw prolonged work to reduce the risk of rockfall.

Rock-scaling work saw periodic closures of the stretch between July and August, following the Cameron Bluffs wildfire in June.

The transportation ministry said the work was essential to reduce the instability of the slope above the highway that was caused by the wildfire.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming had told CBC News that travellers may notice enhancement through the Cameron Lake area, such as the addition of “extensive” fencing to catch any small debris that may fall.

A shattered road barrier next to a slope where trees have fallen.
The rockfall and debris flow meant a 20-hour closure on the critical route connecting Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino with the rest of Vancouver Island. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

DriveBC says that a circuitous detour through logging roads, that was made available during wildfire season, was not available on Boxing Day.

In a written statement, the ministry of transportation said that two large rocks had dislodged from the side of Cameron Lake Bluff on Monday afternoon, subsequently falling onto a rockfall barrier and into the road.

The ministry said Tuesday morning that no one was injured, and crews would replace the barrier. They added that the “large rockfall” also brought down several trees.

“The rockfall occurred adjacent to the area affected by wildfires during the summer,” the statement reads.

New storm expected Wednesday

The debris flow and rockfall follows a significant storm that struck Vancouver Island on Christmas Day. Environment Canada says western Vancouver Island saw more than 100 millimetres of rain.

Ross Macdonald, an Environment Canada meteorologist, told CBC News that a new storm system will start up on Wednesday that could bring more rain to the region.

“This one is going to be more focused, with a little bit heavier rain, again on the west side of [Vancouver] Island, as well as up in the North and Central Coast toward Bella Bella and Haida Gwaii,” he said.

Macdonald says the storm will once again bring heavy winds to Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver. A flood watch remains in place for the north, central and west portions of the island.

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