Backsliding: Hawkins road where massive rock slide occurred last year closed again

Jeff Bobo • Apr 16, 2018 at 6:45 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A section of Hawkins County roadway on Clinch Mountain that was closed last year to remove a massive rock slide was closed again Monday night due to falling rocks and an unstable rock slope.

Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Murrell responded Monday to a report that protective fencing along a stretch of Rt. 70-N on the side of Clinch Mountain had "blown down."

That section of road is where the slide occurred in May of last year and was recently reduced to one lane with red light traffic control to address a falling rock problem.

Upon his arrival Monday morning, Murrell found that about 100 feet of 8-foot-high fencing along the concrete barriers that was protecting the outside lane from falling objects had been knocked down by several large boulders.

Tennessee Department of Transportation contractor Summers Taylor Inc. was at the site Monday morning and had pushed the fallen boulders into a pile across the road, but the fence was still down.

What’s TDOT’s plan?

TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi announced Monday morning that Rt. 70-N will be closed to through traffic for three weeks beginning next Monday. As of Monday evening T-DOT moved forward its plans and ordered the road closed to through traffic beginning at 10 p.m. Monday.

"This is rockfall mitigation work," Nagi told the Times News. "Due to the large rocks that have been falling from the hillside, the entire roadway must be closed to allow for this work to be completed. They will take the loose rock from the hillside and remove it from the area."

Nagi added, "This is an area prone to rock slide and necessary work to ensure that the roadway can stay open for motorists in Hancock and Hawkins counties. We won’t allow any road to be open if we feel that it presents a danger to the motoring public."

Rt. 70-N north of Rogersville will be closed between the Rt. 94 intersection (Pressmens Home Road) and Clinch Valley Road.

How will police and rescuers access that area?

Residences on Rt. 70N, Clinch Valley Road and side streets located north of the work area will be cut off from the most direct route for safety vehicles until the road reopens. 

Murrell said the county will likely make the same public safety response arrangements for this road closure as they did in 2017, when the road was closed for about a month.

"If available, Hawkins County EMS will station an ambulance across the mountain," Murrell said. "Last time while it was closed we luckily had no sheriff's office calls and no EMS calls on the north side of the slide. But you can't count on being that lucky again, and we've got to plan for it."

Murrell added, "(Hawkins County EMS) parked at the Clinch Valley Volunteer Fire Department last time (the road was closed) and Hawkins County Rescue Squad has a truck over there they can utilize for first response. And the sheriff' office has a substation over there also."

Detour routes

From Rt. 70N in Rogersville: Take Highway 11-W west to Rt. 31 in Mooresburg, north to Rt. 33 in Sneedville, west to Route 70-N at Kyles Ford.

From Rt. 70N in Kyles Ford: Take Rt. 33 west to Route 31 in Sneedville, south to 11-W in Mooresburg, east to Route 70-N in Rogersville.