OSO — Six months after a hillside gave way in Oso, burying 43 people and blocking a state highway, the community is taking another step toward recovery with the return of normal traffic on the route.
The state Transportation Department said Monday night that state Highway 530 through the area has reopened to two-way, 50 mph traffic. The department most recently had estimated that full reopening would come Tuesday but said crews have finished paving and striping the new roadway.
The highway was realigned and raised as much as 20 feet in places. Crews also installed six new culverts as part of a $28 million project funded by federal emergency money. Landscaping work will continue until mid-October.
On Sunday morning, first responders and families of slide victims gathered for a ceremony to mark the six-month anniversary of the March 22 slide.
A large American flag was hoisted to the top of a branchless tree that survived the slide that devastated much of the valley. At 10:37 a.m., the moment the slide hit, a color guard of firefighters marched toward the towering tree and lowered the flag to half-staff before raising it up again.
Tim Ward, who lost his wife, Brandy, and was badly hurt in the slide, led a prayer that touched on renewal and a time in the afterlife when he and his neighbors will catch up with those they cherished, the Daily Herald reported Monday.
Ron and Gail Thompson wore black shirts marked with their old address on Steelhead Drive. They lost their house, but they consider themselves fortunate. They said they still have each other.
Pointing to a maple tree at the edge of the slide and the rebuilt highway, Dayn Bruner noted the landmarks he uses to mark the spot where his sister, Summer Raffo, eventually was found.
Raffo, 36, was driving along Highway 530 to a horse-shoeing job when the hillside gave way and swallowed her blue Subaru. Bruner and his family dug through the mud and debris for five days until they found her body.
“Every day gets a little better,” Bruner told the newspaper.