The pain from a disaster of a portion of Interstate 5 collapsing into the Skagit River is far from over as traffic attempts to wind itself around on alternate routes heading both north and south of Burlington and Mount Vernon.
And it's Memorial Day weekend.
At a press conference held late Thursday night at the Dike District 17 garage just southeast of the collapsed bridge, Gov. Jay Inslee first thanked rescue and response teams for their work in bringing three victims of the collapsed bridge to safety after falling in their cars more than 40 feet to the Skagit River below.
Inslee also asked for patience from travellers as the main arterial roadway for north-south highway traffic is bypassed.
"There will be considerable difficulty. All of us are going to need to show all the patience we can muster. We'll honor our rescue personell first of all by showing patience," Inslee said.
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said initial investigations have revealed that a semi-truck trailer in the right lane of I-5 struck a bridge support girder for reasons unknown, though he said he did not know if that was the cause of the collapse.
Batiste said a major accident response team has already started investigating the cause of the collapse, and he said evidence will be preserved for an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Skagit County Sherriff Chief Will Reichert said there were no deaths in the accident, and after extensive search with divers and air support, no reason to believe that there were any other victims. Reichert said it was fortunate that deputy response boat operators were near the scene and responded in minutes.
Reichert also also for patience from Skagit County citizens unused to having I-5 traffic re-routed through small country roads.
"We have some very small county roads that will be packed with traffic they're not used to seeing," Reichert said.
Lynn Peterson, secretary of the state Department of Transportation, said the bridge was inspected last year, and was one of many older bridges in the state in need of repair. She said the bridge currently had a sufficiency ratng of 47 out of 100. She sad further investigation would be necessaary to determine if the remaining section of bridge will need to be replaced.
She said her department was working on securing contracts to remove the span and put a temporary bridge in place.