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A mountain landslide destroys a section of the highway leading to Jackson, Wyo.

A landslide in the Teton Mountains destroyed part of the highway linking Idaho to Jackson, Wyoming, forcing authorities to close the road indefinitely Saturday as the region entered its tourist season summer.

No one was injured when a section of the Teton Pass “failed catastrophically,” the Wyoming Department of Transportation said in a statement Saturday. The highway west of Jackson had been closed to traffic before the road gave way, and crews were working to build a detour around a section where a crack had appeared on the surface days earlier.

The ministry said it expected a long-term closure. Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming said in a separate statement that geologists and engineers would “develop a long-term solution to rebuild the road.”

Even a short closure would pose major logistical challenges for the region, in part because the road serves Jackson Hole, a major tourism hub in Teton County. Travel and tourism is Wyoming’s second-largest industry, according to the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board, and the county spent approximately $1.7 billion on travel-related expenses in 2022.

“We understand that this highway is a lifeline for commuters, deliveries, access to medical care and tourism, especially with limited alternatives and the summer season approaching,” said Darin Westby, director of the department of State Transportation, in a separate press release.

The ministry’s “engineers, surveyors and geologists quickly mobilized to try to keep the highway viable for as long as possible, but catastrophic failure could not be avoided,” Mr Westby said.

The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce said on its website that travelers can still reach the Jackson area from the west using two other routes through the Snake River Canyon. But that detour adds more than an hour of driving, local news outlet WyoFile reported.

The section of Wyoming State Highway 22 that collapsed was initially closed earlier in the week after cracks appeared on the surface. It reopened after crews repaired cracks, but was closed again after another mudslide a few miles away sent mud and debris spilling onto the road, the Transportation Department said.

The department said in its statement Saturday that its crews were still working to remove mud and debris.

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News Source : www.nytimes.com

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