published Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Latest Polk County rock slide cleared quickly

Cars streak past the remnants of a rockslide Tuesday on U.S. Highway 64 near the Caney Creek Recreation Area. The slide was relatively minor and cleared quickly.
Cars streak past the remnants of a rockslide Tuesday on U.S. Highway 64 near the Caney Creek Recreation Area. The slide was relatively minor and cleared quickly.
Photo by Tracey Trumbull.

ANOTHER SNARL

The Knoxville region of the Tennessee Department of Transportation continues to work on a major slide near mile marker 143 on Interstate 75 in Campbell County, Tenn., near the Kentucky state line, according to officials. I-75 South is shut down there, and the northbound side is limited to one lane. Officials said the target date for one southbound lane and a second northbound lane to reopen is Monday.

State and local officials say they'll continue to monitor slide-prone areas of the Ocoee River Gorge's road cut on U.S. Highway 64 in Polk County, Tenn., after a small rock slide near TVA's No. 2 powerhouse temporarily closed one lane of the road overnight Tuesday.

The slide occurred about 4.5 miles from the area where a slide on Nov. 10, 2009, damaged the road and left tons of debris that kept U.S. 64 closed for more than five months, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation officials.

Rock slides can damage more than roads.

Another slide in April 2010 on the other side of the Ocoee River destroyed 60 to 70 feet of the Tennessee Valley Authority's historic wooden flume built in 1912 to channel water from the river to its electrical powerhouse, newspaper archives show. That slide happened below TVA's Ocoee Dam No. 2.

Rain factor

TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said rain might have contributed to Tuesday's slide that was reported at 2:30 a.m. between the rafting take-out site and Ocoee Power House No. 2. The slide blocked one lane of traffic until crews moved about four small dump-truck loads -- about 40 tons -- of debris to reopen the road by 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, Flynn said.

Polk County authorities said early Tuesday that crews had the slide debris cleared up quickly with no serious traffic problems. Markie Huffman, with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, said there were no long delays, no injuries and no damage to vehicles reported.

For now, transportation department efforts are aimed at cleanup, but the state's maintenance manager "has notified our geotechnical section about the slide just so they are aware of it," Flynn said.

"We constantly monitor areas throughout the region where there are mountainous roads," she said.

On look out

Maintenance crews keep an eye out for conditions they see that need to be reported to the geotechnical office, she said.

The state monitors several slide-prone areas in the region, such as U.S. Highway 64 and, in Hamilton County, U.S. Highway 127 on Signal Mountain and state Route 148 on Lookout Mountain. Other areas in the region include Sequatchie County's part of U.S. 127, as well as Interstate 24 on Monteagle Mountain in Marion and Grundy counties, state Route 68 in Rhea County, and state Route 30 in Bledsoe, Flynn said.

TDOT's geotechnical office started a "rockfall mitigation program" in 2005 to address slide problems by first identifying potential "rockfall" sites and then assigning a hazard rating to each location, according to Flynn. The hazard rating is based on the potential for a rockfall and the impact on travelers and surrounding communities, she said.

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about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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