January 27, 2013 - North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is declaring in a state of emergency for mountain counties affected by a landslide triggered by heavy rains earlier this month. Governor McCrory signed an executive order Wednesday for an emergency declaration covering Graham, Jackson and Swain counties and areas within the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian. McCrory's declaration enables the state and local governments to seek federal emergency assistance and reimbursement for costs incurred as a result of the slide.
The Cherohala Skyway is expected to re-open on Monday, January 28 with a temporary detour. Part of the westbound lane of the road was washed
down a 1,000-foot ravine on Jan. 17, forcing the North Carolina Department
of Transportation to close the scenic road. The on-site detour route around a closed section of the Cherohala Skyway in Graham County near the Tennessee state line is a temporary fix, but will allow through traffic on the Skyway until the road is permanently repaired.
US 441 Road Closure:Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have been working with the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) to assess damage to Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) as a result of a January 16 landslide. The FHWA has completed their field survey work, and are now in the initial stage of preparation work to reconstruct the 200 linear feet of road.
This first phase of work will include the stabilization of the slide, removal of landslide debris from the work area, and the completion of a path for construction vehicles to access the section of the slide below the roadway. The work is being coordinated by the FHWA and is expected to begin as early as next week.
While the preparation work is taking place, the design of the road repair is in the development process. The road will be reconstructed as a reinforced full slope roadway. The design will allow for the drainage of water which will protect the road and park resources from future damage. This second phase will begin when the initial site preparation work has been completed. A timeline of completion cannot be determined until the final design has been developed and approved.
“We recognize the importance of Newfound Gap Road to our neighboring communities in our tourism based economy,” said Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “Therefore we are evaluating all reconstruction options to make sure the road work is completed in a timely but safe and efficient manner.”
The park is moving forward on re-vegetating the three acre debris field with native species to aid in sediment and erosion control. This measure will prevent run off from draining into the Beech Flats Prong stream located just below the slide area.
While the access from Gatlinburg to Cherokee will remained closed during the construction period, Newfound Gap Road has been opened from the Gatlinburg, TN entrance to Newfound Gap, and from Cherokee, NC entrance to Smokemont Campground. Visitors who want to sightsee and recreate in the park will still find opportunities through both entrances.
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