Family gets creative to get out of slide-isolated Tofino

Get me out of Tofino!

On Friday morning, the Blake family from Tofino needed to get to Nanaimo to make an airline connection for a trip to Hawaii, but Highway 4 was closed.

“They were quite panicked because they stood to lose quite a bit of money if they weren’t able to make their flight,” said Tofino Mayor Jodie Osborne.

After a “little bit of creative thinking,” she said, “Jesse Blake put the family boat in at the Kennedy Lake Provincial Park boat launch.”

The launch is just west of the construction zone where rockfall from blasting overnight Wednesday significantly damaged the roadway and closed the highway, which links Tofino and Ucluelet to the rest of Vancouver Island.

The Blakes boated across to the east side of the lake and were met by Alberni Island Shuttle, which took them to Nanaimo Airport for their 1:30 p.m. flight.

Wednesday night’s blast was part of the $38.1-million Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement Project, which will make a 1.5-kilometre section of road on the hill wider and straighter. An unexpectedly large volume of rock from the blasting fell on rain-saturated ground, causing a portion of the shoulder and travelling surface to slough away, the Transportation Ministry said.

While the section of highway remains closed, “essential traffic” was allowed through on Friday from noon to 8 p.m. on a single-lane-alternating basis. The opening was intended for those with important appointments or vacationers trying to get to and from the Tofino/Ucluelet area, the ministry said.

The highway closed at 8 p.m. for overnight foundation work to prepare for a installation of a temporary bridge over the weekend. When the bridge is in place, the highway will be reopened to single-lane alternating traffic, allowing commercial vehicles, RVs and other large vehicles to move through the corridor.

The goal is to have Highway 4 reopened to single-lane alternating traffic to regular and commercial vehicles on Sunday afternoon.

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