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Mudslide threatens Logan community

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 40 people have been ferried across the Guyandotte River in Logan County after a mountain slide blocked the only access road to their small community outside of Neibert.

But state officials are working on ways to get them back home in coming weeks. 

Madison Creek Road, the sole access road to a group of about 40 homes, remained blocked Wednesday after the mountainside above started to slide on Friday. No one has been able to enter or leave the community since.

The slip started Friday morning and continued Friday evening.

Vecellio and Grogan, the construction outfit working on the W.Va. 10 expansion project, worked to clear some of the debris over the weekend but by Sunday the earth had started to slide again.

By Monday it was worse, said Brent Walker, state Department of Transportation spokesman.

"It's a pretty significant slide," he said Wednesday afternoon. "Of course there's a construction site up there, but the three days of rain really exacerbated the situation. So it turned into soup and became impassible."

The three days of rain, which dropped nearly 2.86 inches of rain on the Charleston area from Thursday to Saturday, brought on 20 slides around the state, he said. The ground softened under the rain, leading engineers and work crews into a "losing battle," he said.

Transportation officials began working with the Logan Emergency Ambulance Service Authority (LEASA) to get to residents trapped in the neighborhood to make sure they knew they had the option to leave.

Walker said county emergency crews ferried four residents out of the neighborhood across the Guyandotte River Tuesday evening. Forty more were ferried out Wednesday after a community meeting.

Some residents opted to stay in their homes, Walker said, citing that some residents had "real concerns" about leaving their homes. Logan sheriff's deputies are keeping an eye on that area because so many residents have evacuated.

The Department of Transportation is providing food and shelter at local motels for evacuees. 

Though crews are working to clear the debris, the road still won't reopen any time soon.

"That road has been closed indefinitely," Walker said. "The mountainside is unstable.

"Even if we're able to clear that path we're still very uncertain about the stability of the mountain."

Walker said engineers and officials now are working to devise a temporary and a permanent solution for the residents of that community. Officials are seriously considering building a causeway across the Guyandotte, he said. The most suitable place to do so may be between properties off Neibert Bottom Road and Madison Creek Road.

A causeway is a low-river crossing that, Walker said, would possibly entail laying six pipes in the river and covering them with rock and gravel to form a road.

"We think we've got a plan but right now we're making sure those who need to leave and want to leave have the option of that," Walker said. "We're trying to accommodate that and support the organizations that are better adapted at providing those services."

The causeway solution is a temporary one and would be for about a year, he said, but it would still take a few weeks to build it. If the engineers go that route, the state will provide shelter for the residents until the causeway is complete, he said. 

As far as a permanent solution, Walker said officials are looking into several options. The state could try to secure the hillside to prevent future slides or perhaps (that's a big perhaps) it could offer a voluntary buyout to property owners.

He said the situation is "fluid" and changing daily.

"We're very sensitive to the impact that it has on that community," Walker said. "We're working with all the resources we can to find the best solution."

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4850.


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