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Nantahala Closed Through Weekend

TOPTON — N.C. Department of Transportation crews and a contractor have scraped more than four times of the expected amount of loose debris from a rockslide site on U.S. 19/74 in the Nantahala Gorge.

Additional scaling remains. That means the road closure will remain in place this weekend

“It’s like a puzzle — every time something comes down, even more dangerous rock is exposed,” Division 14 maintenance engineer Wesley Grindstaff said. “We’ve already removed four times the amount of what we expected to take out, and there’s more remaining.”

The additional scaling requires the highway to remain closed — from Wayah Road on the west and Pizza by the River on the east — through the weekend until 7 a.m. on Monday. 

“Our geotechnical experts are out here and they’re saying the risk is far too great to even open one lane of traffic this weekend,” Grindstaff said. “We’re serious about this.”

Crew members anchored themselves by ropes tied off more than 100 feet above the roadway on Thursday and Friday to break away loose rocks with hand tools and pressurized air bags. Crews dropped 11 dump trucks full of material on Thursday and an additional 15 truckloads by 2 p.m. on Friday. They’ll work in light rain over the weekend until conditions become too dangerous for their ropes and footing.

The marked detour through Robbinsville and Stecoah, which adds about 20 minutes to a commute, will remain in place through the weekend.

“We have to look out for the safety of drivers and those who use the highway,” Grindstaff said. “There’s still more material that needs to come down.”


1/10/2020 3:19 PM