BRYSON CITY — A heavy rainstorm Saturday evening and four subsequent mudslides have closed U.S. 19/74 in the Nantahala Gorge through the night, and traffic is being detoured around the area.
A 2.8-inch deluge spilled debris into the road at four locations in the five miles between Hewitts Road on the western side and the Nantahala Outdoor Center on the eastern side.
N.C. Department of Transportation officials anticipate crews clearing enough space for all vehicles located between slides to exit the gorge tonight.
“This is unprecedented in the Nantahala Gorge,” Division 14 Engineer Brian Burch said. “We have engineers on site, equipment on site, and crews on site working with state highway patrol and local responders to help get people out as quickly and safely as possible tonight.”
The slides occurred between Ferebee Park on the western side of the gorge and the Nantahala Outdoor Center eight miles to the east.
NCDOT crews from Cherokee and Graham counties are preparing to remove debris from a slide at the western end of the gorge. Crews from Swain and Jackson counties are moving into remove slide debris from the eastern side of the gorge.
“The road will not open tonight for through traffic, but we’ll get folks out,” Division 14 Maintenance Engineer Wesley Grindstaff said after examining westernmost slide. “We will not know the entire severity of the slides until we have daylight on Sunday morning.”
Engineers will be on location Sunday morning to help assess the damage and design a plan to clear the road of all debris. At least one slide will take several days to be cleared.
A temporary detour has been established around the Nantahala Gorge. Westbound vehicles will take N.C. 28 West to Steccoah, then N.C. 143 South to Robbinsville, then N.C. 129 South to Topton and U.S. 19/74. Eastbound traffic will follow those routes in reverse — from Topton to Stecoah to Robbinsville to U.S. 19/74.