A series of landslides that closed the major highway leading to Neah Bay and the Makah Reservation have led to a gasoline and grocery shortage.

Forks and Port Angeles are the closest cities to the town at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, at an hour and two hours away, respectively.

“We like to call it the beginning of the world,” said executive assistant for the Makah Tribe Rose Taylor. “You can’t go any further.”

After two days of heavy rain and wind, a series of landslides along Highway 112 and debris covering Highway 101 have effectively prevented anyone from leaving or entering the town. Along a stretch of Highway 112 closest to the town and near Clallam Bay, a landslide has completely covered the road.

Taylor said as of Wednesday afternoon, there have been no updates on when the stretch of Highway 112 that leads to the reservation will be cleared.

The town, which has a grocery store and a convenience store that are restocked once a week, was already close to due for another delivery when the landslides occurred, Taylor said. There is still some meat remaining, but staples like bread and dairy are short, she said.


Taylor said the 1,300 residents of the town are accustomed to minor road closures during the winter and usually have a stockpiles of food since other grocery stores are a long drive away.

While Neah Bay never lost power or water, the road closures have been a challenge for anyone who was out of town during the landslides, anyone looking to see a specialty doctor and teachers who work at the local schools.

Classes were canceled Monday. Since Tuesday, elementary school students have been learning half in-person and half online, and middle school and high school students fully online.

Purchases of gasoline were initially limited to five gallons but were then reserved entirely to emergency services, Taylor said in an interview Wednesday morning.

The tribe is currently coordinating with the Department of Commerce and other agencies for a fuel delivery through back roads managed by the Department of Natural Resources, she said. Some boat owners in the town are also looking to go to Port Angeles to pick up supplies.

Makah tribe fights coronavirus with self-reliance and extreme isolation

“If you don’t have to be anywhere else, many of us are fine,” said Janine Ledford, 54, the director of the Makah Cultural and Research Center and the tribe’s historic preservation officer. Aside from the gasoline shortage, she said she more or less had an ordinary day.

However, Ledford had been looking forward to attending an in-person conference in Bellevue on Thursday. She said she’ll make the decision on whether to go tomorrow morning.

“I don’t love Zoom conferences,” she said.