Damage to Interstate 10 could make travel between Phoenix and Los Angeles precarious until the road is repaired, officials warned Thursday, just ahead of the busy Labor Day weekend.
Parts of I-10 west of Blythe washed out Wednesday night, and combined with an overturned truck, the freeway closed in both directions. But the road was reopened with some delays Thursday, according to the California Department of Transportation.
Almost 30,000 people a day travel the freeway. Detours around the area are lengthy.
That section of road, between State Route 177 and the California-Arizona border, is undergoing heavy construction, and before the storm, drivers were routed to a bypass to allow for the work. The storm washed out that bypass for eastbound traffic heading toward Arizona.
The area got about three-quarters of an inch of rain Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
But fortunately the main roadway has a usable eastbound lane, which was reopened Thursday morning, according to Caltrans. Traffic was flowing through the area at 35 to 45 miles per hour just before noon Thursday, according to online monitor Sigalert.
That means traffic should be OK for Arizonans traveling westbound to California this weekend and over the Labor Day holiday. But officials had no estimate on how long it would take to rebuild the eastbound lanes, which means travelers heading from California to Arizona could see continued delays.
The washout recalls a similar flash flood in 2015 that took out eastbound lanes of the Tex Wash Bridge on I-10 west of Blythe, stranding hundreds of drivers and forcing lengthy detours throughout the week.
When that happened, Caltrans had to pave a crossover in the median so eastbound traffic could use one lane of the westbound lanes to get over the bridge, then cross over the median again to get back to the eastbound lanes. That also restricted westbound traffic to one lane until the bridge was eventually repaired.
Detours will add extra time to travel
Drivers heading from Arizona to Los Angeles add about 40 miles to their trip by exiting I-10 west of Blythe at Desert Center, heading north onto California 177 and then west on California 62, but they also trade 75 mph speed limits and a two- lane interstate for smaller roads.
Another detour to from Blythe to Indio involves Highway 78 and Highway 86, swinging drivers more than an hour out of their way to the south around the Salton Sea.
Caltrans did not immediately respond to questions regarding how long repairs to the roadway could take, or whether additional storms could further damage I-10. But a Highway Patrol officer told the Desert Sun news site that there was no estimate yet on repair time.
Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at ryan.randazzo@ arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.
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