North Carolina

4 rock slides in 4 days block major highways and other roads in NC mountains

This story was updated at noon Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Landslides closed two more roads in the North Carolina mountains this week, bringing to four the number of highways and other arteries made impassable by falling rocks and trees, according to a sheriff’s office alert and a North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman.

One lane in each direction of Interstate 40 will reopen Thursday afternoon, a week after a massive rock slide closed the interstate in Haywood County near Tennessee, said David Uchiyama, spokesman for NCDOT’s Asheville.

All I-40 lanes in both directions are closed between Exit 20 (U.S. 276 south) and Exit 451, just past the Tennessee line. Geotechnical experts found a 500-foot-wide area near Hurricane Creek that needs to be stabilized, according to NCDOT’s news release. A 50-mile detour has been in place.

A series of landslides, rock slides and mud slides have been reported in western North Carolina in the past few days, including some blocking small roads in residential areas like Dogwood Trail on Eagles Nest Mountain near Waynesville, reported TV station WLOS.

Among the largest of the slides:

Cleanup will require lane closures for up to two months even after the interstate reopens on Friday, state highway officials said.

Persistent rain caused that rock slide and three that followed elsewhere in the NC mountains, Uchiyama told the Observer.

Early Sunday, rocks, dirt and trees tumbled onto westbound lanes of U.S. 74 near the Haywood-Jackson county line, the Observer reported, citing photos in an NCDOT tweet. The slide is near the Blue Ridge Parkway. “Traffic is flowing and has been flowing in both directions,” Uchiyama told the Observer on Wednesday.

On Monday morning, a landslide closed N.C. 212 in Madison County, which is about 15 miles north of Asheville near the Tennessee line. The slide closed the route in both directions just north of Mill Creek Road, Uchiyama said.

N.C. 212, which averages 290 vehicles a day, is expected to reopen Wednesday, he said.

Between 11:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, a rock slide closed dead-end Big Hungry Road in Henderson County about 600 feet beyond the Green River bridge, Uchiyama told the Observer.

“The roadway is blocked,” the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office said in an online alert at 2:46 p.m. Tuesday. “... Please avoid this area until further notice.... NCDOT advised 4 to 6 hours to have one lane open for local access.”

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.